Death Cab for Cutie, “You Are A Tourist” (2011): One Track Mind

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A long-awaited advance single hails the return of that odd conundrum called Death Cab for Cutie, whose spit-take name can’t begin to hint at the deep musical complexities tucked away inside.

They’ve been away for some time, touring behind the dark and stormy Narrow Stairs, which went to Billboard No. 1 in 2008, and then crafting the forthcoming Codes and Keys, due May 31 on Atlantic. Initial reports had the group, working now with producer Alan Moulder, shifting into more keyboard-driven fare, with front man Ben Gibbard reportedly even likening the new project to Brian Eno’s Another Green World.

Not so with this new song “You Are a Tourist,” which quickly shucks an initial melancholy in favor of a snappy beat and (even a bigger surprise, really) an insistently hopeful lyric. That metronomic, Cure-inspired rhythm, courtesy of drummer Jason McGerr and founding bassist Nick Harmer — is soon joined by Chris Walla’s skirling, new-wavy guitar, something that works in jiminy-crickety call-and-response as an echoing vocal signature bounces about.

After the sublime dusk that surrounded Narrow Stairs, Death Cab’s new track dashes determinedly toward the rising daybreak. It’s for anyone who is ever felt disconnected from the world around them, but it doesn’t wallow in the feeling. No, “Tourist” pushes back — hard: “If you feel like a tourist in the city you’re born in, it’s time to go,” Gibbard sings, with rising determination, “and if you find your destination, there’s so many different places to call home.”

The track ends with Gibbard repeating “when there’s a burning in your heart,” until it becomes transformational — going from sad and quiet admission to a sun burst of ambition.

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