Amid all the typical hand-wringing that can accompany an indie fave’s major-label debut, the biggest lament of fans and critics alike about Death Cab’s Plans (Atlantic) is that the quartet’s stock-in-trade–winsome songs of lovelorn longing–has gone missing. Front man Ben Gibbard is no longer splaying himself in the emotacular fashion to which we’ve grown accustomed. Having ditched the achy-breaky of previous records like Transatlanticism, it’s like he’s noticing the world outside for the first time: there are songs of personal rebirth, like “Your Heart Is an Empty Room” (“Burn it down ’til the embers smoke on the ground / And start new when your heart is an empty room”), and the approaching-30 meditation on death, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” So the question is: Is a Death Cab by any other steez still the same Death Cab? Barely–and that’s good news. They’re finally playing their songs like they own them, not like they’ve snatched them from Built to Spill. While the self-reflection and pondering might be too grown-up for the teen fan base who caught the band on The O.C., Plans is packed with weltering dynamics that are effortlessly likable. Youth Group opens. Wed 10/12, 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Autumn deWilde.