Plans is the fifth studio album by Death Cab for Cutie, released on August 30, 2005. Drummer Jason McGerr noted the continuity between this album and their previous one, stating "if Transatlanticism was an inhale, Plans is the exhale." In 2006, a DVD was released titled Directions, an anthology of 11 short films all inspired by tracks of Plans.
The recording of Plans took place across a period of a month at a farmhouse studio in rural Massachusetts, described by lead singer, Ben Gibbard, as being "virtually in the middle of nowhere", the sort of place "a label sends a band if the singer's a junkie and they need to get him away from the bad things in the city". The location had the advantage that the band were able to "spread out while recording", which Gibbard stated was "really nice".
In explaining the theme of the album, Ben Gibbard said the following:
I don't think there's necessarily a story, but there's definitely a theme here. One of my favorite kind of dark jokes is, 'How do you make God laugh? You make a plan.' Nobody ever makes a plan that they're gonna go out and get hit by a car. A plan almost always has a happy ending. Essentially, every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time. I really like the idea of a plan not being seen as having definite outcomes, but more like little wishes.
Plans has received positive reviews. On the review aggregate site Metacritic, the album has a score of 66 out of 100, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."E! Online gave the album an A and said, "[Plans has] ginormous power-pop melodies in songs such as "Soul Meets Body" and "Marching Bands of Manhattan" and wussy-boy lyrics that'll make your heart grow a few sizes."Alternative Press gave it all five stars and said that the album "seamlessly picks up right where 2003’s Transatlanticism left off."Billboard gave the album a very favorable review and said it "delivers beyond expectations".Filter gave it a score of 80% and said, "DCFC is becoming a band that's worth noticing apart from Ben."Under the Radar gave it eight stars out of ten and called it "a careful but not calculated album, accessible but hardly immediate, and likely to frustrate those who want it to fuel either side of an ideological debate on what it means to be indie."URB gave the album four stars out of five and said that "Despite what the blog-haters might say, Gibbard and Co. more than make the grade."The A.V. Club gave it a favorable review and stated that "The band wears grandiosity with grace, miniaturizing and polishing big, broad moments into tiny triumphs that, like audible illusions, feel simultaneously intimate and huge."musicOMH gave it four stars out of five and called it "an album of progression that is likely to win the band plenty of new fans, but it shouldn't alienate their fanbase either."Blender gave it three-and-a-half stars out of five and said that "At times, the writing feels almost too weightless. But repeat listening makes these songs reliably addictive."
Other reviews are very average, mixed, or negative: Neumu.net gave the album six stars out of ten and stated: "Never the hardest rocking of bands, Death Cab for Cutie sound positively muted throughout Plans, Gibbard's obsession with the temporary nature of relationships and life itself receiving appropriately somber accompaniment."Q gave it three stars out of five and said it "doesn't differ radically from the previous four.... Newcomers, however, should start with 2003's more cohesive Transatlanticism."The Guardian also gave it three stars out of five and stated, "Gibbard's angelic vocals sag with the weariness of a man who's gazed at his navel all his life only to realise there's nothing but fluff and darkness."Prefix Magazine gave the album a score of five out of ten and stated: "Although the band hasn’t really strayed from its cutesy indie-pop formula, the qualities that made Death Cab stand out aren’t present this time around."NME gave it a score of four out of ten and said the album was "produced within an inch of its shiny, whitebread life and the Cutie seem to have lost their faux-naive subtleties, becoming the non-thinking man's Coldplay along the way."Mojo gave it two stars out of five and said it "makes Athlete, Snow Patrol et al sound like fire-breathing berserkers."Uncut also gave it two stars out of five and said of the band, "Their failure to shift pace from a relentlessly wistful chug makes for an oddly exhausting listening experience." Drawer B gave the album an unfavorable review and called it "a pretty boring album, and the primary reason is its lack of diversity."The Village Voice also gave it an unfavorable review and said, "Death Cab succeed by refusing to offend. That can be an admirable trait in a person, but never in a musician."