Top Artist of the Week: Death Cab for Cutie

Does anyone else pay attention to who produces records? I tend to be somewhat obsessive about who contributes to the creation of a piece of music. Obviously, the main songwriter and singer/band have the greatest impact on the sound of any given album. Generally speaking, the producer stands next in line.

What is a producer? It's a generally vague term, and different producers serve different roles. Some producers started their careers as excellent engineers who focus on making an album sound polished and professional. Other producers are musicians/songwriters who grew into the role by overseeing the production of their own albums and then grew into helming other projects.

Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla fits into the latter category. Over the course of the past few years he has grown into one of the most creative and sought after producers in indie-rock. In addition to producing the past few DCFC records as well as his own excellent solo album, he has manned the mixing board on recent outings by The Decemberists and Tegan and Sara.

His most recent effort is the latest release by Death Cab for Cutie. Narrow Stairs is the band's most confident and complete musical statement to date. Walla's contributions to this record cannot be overlooked. From the epic feel of the I Will Possess Your Heart to the Beach Boys-esque structure of You Can Do Better Than Me, Walla's production manages to be both varied and cohesive.

Precise, reverberated guitars, interlocking bass and drum parts, soaring analog synths, and warm electric piano underpin Benjamin Gibbard's impassioned wail throughout.

Who is your favorite producer? Has their work led you to check out another artist's album who you may not have looked at otherwise?



  1. My favorite producers include Tim O'Brien, who does great work with younger bluegrass and newgrass artists these days...Jonathan Leventhal, who defined Shawn Colvin's popfolk sound...and of course, T-Bone Burnett, who I have learned to look for on any label as a sign that the music comes highly recommended. Walla is a great choice, though -- those who thought Ben Gibbard was all there was to DCFC are learning otherwise, through his great work as a solo artist and producer, as the band continues to mature.

  2. I'm a huge Tim O'Brien fan. He is one of my favorite singers. He is one of the few musicians who goes beyond being merely proficient on a number of instruments and brings it to a near virtuoso level. I learned how to play bouzouki by studying his instructional DVD. I haven't really sought out any of his production work though. Any recommendations?