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Death Cab's Latest Will 'Possess Your Heart'

Washington Post music critic Josh Freedom du Lac takes a look at the week's new album releases, featuring music from retro pop singer Duffy, the Americana rock band Old 97's, and dramatic indie-pop from Death Cab For Cutie.

With its sixth studio CD, Narrow Stairs, Death Cab For Cutie strays somewhat from the crisp and lushly multi-tracked sound of its previous albums, moving toward harsher songs and uncharacteristically lengthy instrumental introductions, especially on the first single "I Will Possess Your Heart." In spite of the slight sonic change, Freedom du Lac says the songs are still typical for the band. "It's full of despairing, dramatic, lonely, mopey rock music," he says, noting singer Ben Gibbard's "sharp narratives and character sketches about very sad souls."

Duffy's breathy, aching voice and '60s pop frequently draw comparisons to fellow U.K. throwback singer Amy Winehouse. With Rockferry, the singer offers up sharp confessionals and bruised lyrics set to upbeat, retro sounds. Freedom du Lac calls it "a pretty fun album for being sad and blue."

The country-tinged alt-rock group Old 97's returns with Blame It on Gravity — an album the band calls its definitive statement. With songs that spin through bluegrass, galloping two-step, and "cow-punk rave-up," Freedom du Lac says, Old 97's further establishes itself as a batch of great rock 'n' roll songwriters. "At the core of the album is these clever and very tuneful songs, mostly written by [singer] Rhett Miller," he says.

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