Death Cab for Cutie's Forbidden Love EP is not, strictly speaking, an acoustic album. But in comparison to the group's recent We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes long player, it's a stripped-down affair of varying degrees. The opener, "Photobooth," rides a simple drumbeat and playful bass line with guitar and keyboard quietly brushing color across the minimalist canvas. Songwriter/vocalist Benjamin Gibbard's voice is subdued but remains the central focus throughout the disc, whether emoting vitriolic sentiment or detailing the intricacies of romance, as on "Technicolor Girls," a wash of chiming melody and ingenuous circular rhythms.
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Death Cab can alternately be symphonic or crunching, as on "Song for Kelly Huckabee," the most ornate track on Forbidden Love. It's also the last new song on the EP; the final two cuts are alternate versions of a pair of We Have the Facts numbers -- an ethereal acoustic redux of "405" that, were it a tad more effeminate, would fall squarely in the category of twee, and a spaced-out, reverbed take on "Company Calls Epilogue," arguably the best song in the band's canon. Given a choice between the two versions of the song, the EP incarnation is far superior, as it reveals yet another side of a band that has no shortage of angles or directions.
Maturing at a quickened pace (the span of time between the album and the new EP was mere months), Death Cab for Cutie has become one of the premier acts in pop music. Unlike many of its brethren, the group's diversity and delivery prevent it from being pigeonholed into any of the genre flavors of the minute -- it's not emo, it's not twee, it's not indie rock. Think of it as music you could sit and enjoy with your family, pure pop simplicity that knows no generational/gender/genre boundaries.
Death Cab for Cutie
Green Room in Tempe
Scheduled to perform on Saturday, February 10, with the Jealous Sound, and the And/Ors. Showtime is 9 p.m.