It seems natural that Chris Walla would make a fine solo disc: He's Ben Gibbard's sonic wingman in Death Cab For Cutie, and he's branched out as an excellent producer, too, giving quirky touches to Tegan And Sara's The Con, among plenty of other discs. Not surprisingly, Walla's first solo set, Field Manual, is masterfully produced, and glossed over with same thick indie-pop sheen that's greased up every Death Cab release. The problem: Walla isn't that strong a songwriter. Nothing on Field Manual is noticeably bad, but it's never ridiculously exciting, either. Songs such as "Geometry &c;" and "Sing Again" sound like Death Cab's cutting-room floor, culled perhaps because of sub-par hooks. Add Walla to the list of producers who should stay producers: Field Manual sounds great, but it isn't always worth listening to.
More from The A.V. Club