Though hard to get past their unusual title, Death Cab For Cutie, the quartet from Washington state has just released their fourth LP album.
Frontman Ben Gibbard (vocals, guitar, piano) is possibly the greatest writer of this generation. He has a skill for painting scenes with intimate detail. The music is mostly delicate indie rock built on miraculous drum beats with clean acoustic and electric guitars.
The highly structured, beautiful piano playing is icing on the cake. Many of Gibbard’s lyrics have deep meanings coiled under the electrical bustle of melody as heard through the song diction, imagery, repetition, rhyme and allegory for “Transatlanticism.”
“The New Year” sets the tone right away, lamenting the logistics of a long-distance relationship (“I wish the world was flat like the old days/then I could travel just by folding a map”). “Lightness” and “Passenger Seat” (a cool love song) shift into subtle, torpid mode contrasting nicely with more directly dim songs like “Expo ’86” and “We Looked Like Giants.
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“Transatlanticism” has peaks that are portioned out amply, even purposefully. But Death Cab For Cutie sets the bar highest during the disc’s dynamite mid-section, where two perfectly propulsive minutes of “The Sound of Settling” make way for the tear-jerking melancholy of “Tiny Vessels.”
Throttling the title track “Transatlanticism” results in a hymn-like wall of martial beats, layered fuzzy guitars and a heavenly choir of voices. “Transatlanticism,” which may be the best song Gibbard has ever written, never falters during its eight enchanting minutes. It builds to a crashing climax while highlighting Gibbard’s genius with the album’s six most important words: “I need you so much closer.” It has the characteristics of a traditional poem and the use of creative vocabulary: “The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flood lands to your door have been silenced forever more.”
Poetically intellectual with brilliant lyrics and structured under remarkably influential chords of passion, “Transatlanticism” is enchanting. I strongly suggest you give this album a listen.