Death Cab For Cutie
I will tell you this about Transatlanticism: I had to work through some “issues” before I could listen to it. It’s on account of Death Cab’s previous disc The Photo Album. Two years on, and I still live in fear of it. It’s plodding and humorless, like walking in quicksand through Mudville. It’s been a dust-covered entry in my CD collection since shortly after I bought it, but some stupid indie-o-syncrasy prevents me from getting rid of it.
Enter Transatlanticism, which has been getting deeper in dust since its arrival at my apartment months ago. Those days are over now; it has shed off its inactivity, and it has found itself firmly entrenched in or near my stereo for the foreseeable future. It is an unbelievable improvement over the band’s last album. I credit this turnaround to two sources: bandleader Ben Gibbard’s stint in the electro-pop outfit The Postal Service and Gibbard’s acquiescing to the songwriting talents of his band mates. The former manifests itself on tracks like “Lightness,” where the hungover shuffle that typified the band’s previous disc is provided an odd counterbalance in the form of quietly wobbling electronics. This underscores the very austere and overused melody while filling in the sonic gaps along the way.
The influx of new creative juices is the only way I can fathom Death Cab adding such upbeat numbers and giddy handclaps on “The Sound of Settling” and “We Looked Like Giants.” Sure, the lyrics are still downcast and contemplative but that’s always been Death Cab’s strength. The best mope-rock (The Smiths, The Cure, etc.) understood the power of emotionally conflicted songs, and it looks like Death Cab is starting to tap into this well again. Here’s hoping they set their sights higher and don’t slump back into Mudville from here on out.