As much as I love music, the price of CDs has kept me from buying more albums than I'd like to---and I know I'm not alone. Case in point: I own and enjoy Death Cab for Cutie's 2003 album, Transatlanticism, but my budget has kept me from picking up their most recent effort, 2005's Plans. After receiving Directions, a DVD based on said album, it seems I may not have to. Not that there's anything wrong with an audio-only release; but at this point, it'd be taking half a step backwards.
Let me clarify: Directions is a unique collection of music videos directed by fans of the band, assembled as a result of interest on the band's official website. Countless entries were sent by directors of all experience levels, but only the best (as selected by the band, apparently) made it to the DVD. There's one for each proper album track and two others, 13 in all, and nearly all of them do their job perfectly. It's doubtful that this is the first time such a project was executed, but here's hoping it's practiced more often in mainstream and independent album releases.
The standouts in this collection include videos such as "Different Names For The Same Thing", in which director Autumn de Wilde mixes footage of a middle school band performing the song with the final studio version. "Crooked Teeth" (at top) is another visual standout, as director Rob Schrab (Scud, the Disposable Assassin) mixes boxy puppets and cartoon-like backgrounds to create what he calls "draw-less animation". "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" (below right), directed by Monkmus, contains sketches of a rabbit couple that provide companionship and support for one another through the years. "Summer Skin" (below left), directed by the Lightborne company, features young children already trapped in an oppressive office environment. Lance Bangs' "Talking Like Turnstiles" features concert footage from the perspective of a rabid fan (Bangs himself, apparently) as he bounces around the venue, pushing past security, other fans and the dirty looks they give him.
There isn't a terrible one in the bunch, but the best videos in collection are the ones that stray a bit from the song's literal context and meaning. Ace Norton's "Someday You Will Be Loved" plays things a bit too obvious, displaying a battered heart that finally morphs into a flowering plant. Still, the majority of what's on here enhances the music, though newcomers to the band may find themselves at odds if they're not in the right mindset. Overall, it's a nice package that Death Cab for Cutie Fans should really enjoy. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Complete Video & Director Listing
(13 video shorts on 1 single-sided disc)
From Plans (2005 Album)
"Marching Bands Of Manhattan" (Paul Brown)
"Soul Meets Body" (Cat Solen)
"Summer Skin" (Lightborne)
"Different Names For The Same Thing" (Autumn de Wilde)
"I Will Follow You Into The Dark" (Monkmus)
"Your Heart Is An Empty Room" (Jeffrey Brown / Eliza Kinkz)
"Someday You Will Be Loved" (Ace Norton)
"Crooked Teeth" (Rob Schrab)
"What Sarah Said" (Laurent Briet)
"Brothers On A Hotel Bed" (Josh Victor Rothstein)
"Stable Song" (Aaron Stewart-Ahn)
"Jealousy Rides With Me" (Keith Schofield)
"Talking Like Turnstiles" (Lance Bangs)
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a variety of aspect ratios (1.33:1, 2.35:1 and everything in-between), the only disappointment here is the lack of anamorphic enhancement. With that in mind, the transfers for these videos are in good shape, displaying little to no dirt or digital problems. There's also a bit of interlacing in certain scenes, evidenced by light blurring and ghosting on fast-moving objects. Overall, it's still a passable effort.
The audio department offers a basic but quality presentation, as the included English 2.0 Stereo track represents the same mix as found on the original album. Even so, it's a shame we couldn't have gotten a full 5.1 overhaul for these songs, which would've separated this release from the standard CD even further. Subtitles and captions are not provided for any of the content, though separate lyrics pages are available for each song.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the 1.33:1 menu designs for this release are a bit on the basic side, but at least they're easy to navigate. Each short is presented without chapter breaks, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard CD-sized jewel case and includes basic liner notes.
A small but solid assortment of extras complements the videos well---in fact, there's a little something for each one. Every included video includes a Director's Statement/Bio or related Production Notes, as well as Lyrics for each song. Many of the videos dig a little deeper: for example, "Crooked Teeth" offers a rough Animatic for the polished final product, "Different Names For The Same Thing" also contains the actual audio of the school band's performance, while "Stable Song" adds an Alternate Ending to the mix. Several other videos also include Production Stills, some of which are smartly accompanied by the original album track.
More traditional extras are also on board, including the Trailer for the project (2:09), an Interview with the band members (11:10) and a brief Credits page also reprinted in the liner notes (2:08). All of the extras can be played at once, but individual ones can be accessed by clicking on each song title. Overall, it's a slightly disorganized but very interesting set of bonus features, so fans shouldn't be disappointed.
Their 2005 album Plans may be good in its own right, but Death Cab for Cutie's Directions is a more potent and satisfying effort. The videos themselves add a nice layer to almost every song---and chances are, you'll appreciate at least one or the other. It's also nice to see participation by each and every director (as well as the band members), plus a few extra goodies to sweeten the pot even more. Though the technical presentation could've used a bit of improvement in some areas, this is still a solid package at an extremely tempting price. Fans of the band and creative music videos simply can't go wrong with this one. Firmly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.