I first fell in love with Death Cab for Cutie when I was a sophomore in high school. I wore out my Transatlanticism CD out and had to buy multiple copies from The Wall and Sam Goody. The band's penchant for making beautiful songs about unrequited love and heartbreak were perfect for my bleeding emo heart. I probably didn't understand Transatlanticism completely, but I certainly did feel it. Now 12 years older, both Death Cab for Cutie and I are coming to terms with the real pains of growing older and growing up. Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla (who recently left the band), Nick Hammer, and Jason McGerr return with Kintsugi, a soaring and deceptively subtle album filled with the woes of losing the ones you love, and especially losing yourself. Thanks to NPR, you can listen to the whole album for free.
Hidden beneath pop beats and bass-line grooves is real sorrow and grief. There are very straight-forward laments (as you would expect from Ben Gibbard) on the album, but there are even more dashed in between upbeat synths. It's discombobulating when you listen very closely, but it's also where the band hits the real heart of its message. What we wear on the outside often has no indication of what we're really battling on the insinde.
This time around Death Cab for Cutie face divorce in the public eye, losing friendships with the mere passing of time, and digging yourself out of a rut. It's challenging and deeply personal subject matter, but it is above all a real sign of growth.
Take a listen over at NPR and here's how all of the songs on Kintsugi rank:
Track 01, "No Room in Frame" — Song Most Likely to Appear in a Soundtrack
The song has, "HBO indie comedy series" written all over it. It's almost as if you can see the hazy filter in Los Angeles slow-motion dancing scene. It also comes right out of the gates with the whole Ben Gibbard/Zooey Deschanel divorce thing, "Was I in your way when the cameras turned to face you?" Ouch.
Track 02, "Black Sun" — Song Most Likely to Be Found on Transatlanticism
In high school I would have thought it was just a song about being disillusioned. 12 years later, it's clear Gibbard and Co. are digging at something much deeper, “There’s whiskey in the water and there is death upon the vine. There is fear in the eyes of your father. There is yours and there is mine.”
Track 03, "The Ghosts of Beverly Drive" — Song Most Likely to Be Turned into a Tattoo
Case in point, "If you let me be your skyline, I’ll let you be my wave. " The song also has a strong Jimmy Eat World vibe and again, has a much sadder subject than the California sound would let on.
Track 04, "Little Wanderer: — Song Most Likely To Get You Through a Long-Distance Relationship
If you've ever been in an LDR, you know that they suck with a captial SUCK. "Little Wanderer" perfectly captures how you can feel left behind when the one you love goes off into the world without you. It breaks people apart and this song highlights the hopefulness of long-distance relationships, " I hope your absence makes us grow fonder,"as well as there absolute crushing realities, You sent a photo out your window of Tokyo/ Told me you were doing fine/ You said the cherry blossoms were blooming, and that I was on your mind/ But I couldn't make you out through the glitches/ It's how it always seems to go/ So we say our goodbyes over messenger/ As the network overloads."
Track 05, "You’ve Haunted Me All My Life" — Song Most Likely to Stir up Childhood Disappointments
Ever had parents who weren't there for you? Ever felt abandoned and disappointed by those who were meant to take care of you? Ever had a lifelong insecurity you can't shake because it was embedded at an early age? Then this song is for you!
Track 06, "Hold No Guns" — Song Most Likely to Cry to While Driving
It's not quite at "crying in the bathtub" levels, but it's close. This track is an acoustic lullaby that perfectly describes every feeling you've ever had towards someone who won't commit, " Darling don't you understand there are no winners, the treasures we never buried. My love why do you run? My hands hold no guns."
Track 07, "Everything's A Ceiling" — Song Most Likely to End up on A Mix Tape
It's catchy enough that maybe the one you're pining for won't notice that the lyrics are all about how the one you want to be with is with the wrong person.
Track 08, "Good Help" — Song Most Likely to Be Used as a Pick-Me-Up
You'll definitely be hearing this one on your local radio station. If it's not the one Death Cab opens with in their next tour, it'll definitely be a closer, or even part of an encore. Hello, emo dance floor!
Track 09, "El Dorado" — Song Most Likely to Be on a Running Playlist
It's the perfect song for a run. The fast-paced beats will keep you moving and the lyrics are juuuuust mysterious enough that you can really tune in and try to decipher the story...you know, if you're one of those runners who needs a distraction while running (*COUGH* me *COUGH*).
Track 10, "Ingenue" — Song Most Likely to Be Discussed by Feminists
Sure Gibbard is pointing out the unrealistic expectations Hollywood has on young women...but is he speaking FOR us? Is he dissing Zooey? "When age's glacial pace/ Cuts valleys into your face/ The currency of being twenty-three/ It will remain the same/ Just by another name." True...and ouch.
Track 11, "Binary Sea" — Song Most Likely to Make You Never Want to be Famous
Gibbard really dives into how his divorce was played out in the public eye using Atlas in a modern metaphor, "As you watched him struggle to his feet/ You took photos capturing his defeat/ And messaged them to all your friends/ And we all laughed at his expense." Thankfully the song ends on a hopeful note...sort of.