DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE / NARROW STAIRS
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After spending the better part of a decade in the musical minor leagues, Death Cab For Cutie went pro with 2005's Plans, a record whose optimism and bright, Technicolor sound gave the band enough leverage to enter the mainstream. "Soul Meets Body" became their biggest rock single to date, but it was Ben Gibbard's delicate love song, "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," that earned the quartet a Grammy nomination and legions of new fans. Some bands might have taken a cue from that success and resigned themselves to a career of acoustic ballads, not unlike the Goo Goo Dolls' transformation in the mid-'90s. But Narrow Stairs roughs up Plans' bright palette with something starker, more harrowing, and altogether darkened by Gibbard's blues.