Codes and Keys

  • Record Label: Atlantic
  • Release Date: May 31, 2011

Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
Buy On
  1. 100
    It's a reminder to the rest of the pretty-rock community that loveliness is worthless if there's no heart behind it, and Death Cab's beats stronger than most.
  2. As the record comes to a close, it's impossible not to note the true creativity exerted throughout the entirety of Codes and Keys.
  3. Jun 2, 2011
    If Codes and Keys started at track 7 and kept the momentum going, it could be a great record. Instead it's a good one with great moments from a band that's clearly getting better with age.
  4. Jun 29, 2011
    Past Death Cab albums have found frontman Ben Gibbard penning youthful lyrics about the wariness and mystery of love, but now, the singer -- who recently married actress/musician Zooey Deschanel -- seems to finally be at peace with his strange, wonderful self.
  5. Q Magazine
    Jun 7, 2011
    Perhaps Codes And Keys's seemingly illogical sequencing of songs makes sense if they wish to lure their audience into thinking it's as-you-were. But it's not: things are different and better. [July 2011, p. 110]
  6. May 31, 2011
    This album doesn't try to rejuvenate Death Cab for Cutie by reverting to the sound the band had in the late 1990s. Now, it's a band of grown-ups still eager to evolve.
  7. May 31, 2011
    Throw in the stunning power and clarity of Alan Moulder's mix and you have the sound of a band revitalised, re-inspired and highly evolved.
  8. May 27, 2011
    That's the type of music that the band knocks out of the park: music for lovers to do romantic things to. On Codes And Keys, those lovers are encouraged to be happy-an emotion that sometimes has evaded Death Cab.
  9. May 27, 2011
    As such it is an understated and subtlety magnificent pleasure.
  10. 80
    There's an ease and comfort about the songs that suggests they fell into place naturally, rather than suffering endless alterations; and the band seem content to let them breathe and take on a life of their own, rather than freight them with unnecessary adornment.
  11. 80
    Underneath slicker production and diminished guitar usage, are the same melodies and introspective, angsty songwriting, only this time the band may come off as occasionally happy.
  12. Alternative Press
    May 16, 2011
    This quietly experimental album ends up being Death Cab For Cutie's great leap forward--an achievement of pop formalism wrapped inside a beautiful cacophony. [Jun 2011, p.108]
  13. May 16, 2011
    Gibbard mostly dispenses with his trademark jitters, leaning into Death Cab's tuneful guitar-band thrum with a confidence that eventually sells Codes and Keys' moments of 
eager-beaver optimism.
  14. Jun 1, 2011
    Longtime Death Cab fans may chafe at the record's brighter moments, but it's a more rewarding experience than the band's previous stab at a "pop" record, 2005's Plans.
  15. May 27, 2011
    Death Cab for Cutie's seventh studio album, Codes and Keys, pulses with the sound of tires on pavement, life blurring past a bus window on the road.
  16. 70
    It certainly lacks the ambition and scope of Transatlanticism, but given the group's recent personal and professional triumphs, it's encouraging to hear them produce a piece of work reflective of their situation.
  17. Jun 2, 2011
    Luckily, there's enough genuine melody at the core of these songs to warrant their arrangements.
  18. By Ben Gibbard's own admission "a much less guitar-centric" record than usual, it is therefore, if only by default, the closest thing yet to a follow-up to Give Up by Gibbard's other concern, the Postal Service, although it's more about pretty pianos than effervescent synths.
  19. Jun 1, 2011
    Perhaps the charm of Codes and Keys stems from the clever recycling of tropes-both musical and thematic.
  20. 70
    It's a fine album, but signposts a possible future rather than taking us there directly.
  21. May 31, 2011
    Here on Death Cab for Cutie's seventh record there's little guitar to speak of, resulting in a more docile affair, even by the band's already mellow standards.
  22. Under The Radar
    May 27, 2011
    One listen to its seventh album, Codes and Keys, reveals a band conscious as ever of the power of the studio. [May 2011, p. 77]
  23. May 24, 2011
    The positivity is hardly worry-free, and the arrangements, shaped by My Bloody Valentine mixologist Alan Moulder, add disorienting details (the dubby ghost vocals on "Doors Unlocked and Open") for those listening closely. But at core, these are resplendent songs, the sound of a sad-sack acquiescing that life might be pretty awesome after all.
  24. The end result is an unfortunate fact that while Death Cab For Cutie seems as capable as ever at expressing themselves, they are running out of things to say. Or, at least, things worth hearing.
  25. 63
    On his band's new album, Codes and Keys, Gibbard's picked up a bit of L.A.'s sun-scarred optimism and a droll domestic satisfaction that's alternately smug and insightful.
  26. Jun 6, 2011
    Until Gibbard can harness this newfound happiness with the kind of lyrical flair his fans are used to, Death Cab remain in danger of being, well, just another indie band.
  27. Kerrang!
    Jun 2, 2011
    Unfortunately, not everything works quite as well [as the opening and final tracks]. [21 May 2011, p.51]
  28. May 31, 2011
    Despite an abundance of textures Codes and Keys seems somehow sparse, empty calories around a hollow centre.
  29. May 27, 2011
    Thanks in no small part to Death Cab, there's now a permanent niche for indie pop that's smart, sad, and refined, and Codes and Keys fills it nicely.
  30. 60
    That being said, though, while Codes and Keys is a pleasing listen, it ultimately does lack the depth to make it really memorable, and some of the sacrifices made to create its poppy aesthetic are terribly unfortunate.
  31. May 26, 2011
    Pleasant songwriting propped by great production: you could level the same charge at a lot of stuff in the charts, and, in fairness, material from Codes and Keys wouldn't sound out of place if it cropped up next to Noah and the Whale on the radio.
  32. Nov 29, 2011
    Keys and Codes, which inverts the title of Death Cab's last record, feels slapped together, which is disappointing when you consider the array of talent present.
  33. Jun 1, 2011
    Death Cab still sound like Death Cab, but Codes and Keys is undoubtedly the least pop record they've made since breaking through to the mainstream with their last indie-situated effort, 2003's Transatlanticism.
  34. May 27, 2011
    Despite the occasional flashes of brilliance, Codes and Keys often feels like a half assed attempt at innovation.
  35. Jun 17, 2011
    Codes and Keys is littered with PDA for Gibbard's new celebrity wife Zooey Deschanel, but this especially garish monument to his muse would have been better placed on one of her She & Him album-wafers.
  36. Jun 1, 2011
    It's a hard pill to swallow, but the truth is this: Codes & Keys is the worst album of their career.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 56 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. Jun 2, 2011
    This album is officially one of my favorite albums of the year and it is easily the best album death cab has put out since Trans. This writingThis album is officially one of my favorite albums of the year and it is easily the best album death cab has put out since Trans. This writing is spot on, the instrumentation is crisp and Ben Gibbard's voice shines. This is a big step in the right direction after taking a couple steps backwards with narrow stairs. I highly recommend this album. Full Review »
  2. Aug 19, 2012
    This is a great record. It's the most complete Death Cab album to date. By most complete album, I mean everyone in the band has matured and itThis is a great record. It's the most complete Death Cab album to date. By most complete album, I mean everyone in the band has matured and it shows on this record. Each track is perfectly layered with Ben Gibbard's vocals, Chris Walla's sweeping piano, and the best drumming I've heard in a Death Cab record. The opener "Home Is A Fire" is the only track I find really unlistenable, but other than that one song, The other tracks are great. All In All, Death Cab For Cutie have a complete sound now. Anticipating their next release. B+ Full Review »
  3. Aug 16, 2011
    After listening many, many times I have come to realise that this album is an absolute delight to listen to. Ben Gibbard has done it onceAfter listening many, many times I have come to realise that this album is an absolute delight to listen to. Ben Gibbard has done it once again with his superb lyrics, and deep song-writing. I will go as far as saying that it's possibly their best album yet, and certainly their best album since Transatlanticism. What amazes me about this band is that they continue to be innovate: this album differs entirely to Narrow Stairs, Plans and Transatlanticism, and it has turned out to be remarkable. They may end up being remembered for this album. I am shocked that it was not received as well as it should have been by critics. Songs such "Some Boys", "You Are a Tourist" and "Doors Unlocked and Open" really do stand out on this record, as always, Gibbard choosing to end the album with a beautiful song "Stay Young, Go Dancing".. this is a sign of the wonderful talents still to come from this band. It's often a hard thing to create consistent albums, but Death Cab For Cutie have done it once again. This album is no exception from that. Full Review »