Review Summary: This is fact, not fiction, for the first time in years...
I have the world's biggest man-crush on Ben Gibbard. There, I said it. And you know what? I'm happy to admit it. There's something about his words that I find so identifiable that they have become intricately entwined with many of the defining moments in my life. It all started when I was in the 9th grade. I purchased Transatlanticism
on a whim. I had only heard Death Cab for Cutie mentioned in passing, but there was something about the album's cover of a starling entangled in twine that I found somewhat endearing, so I picked it up. I initially hated the album. It wasn't until a year later while on a road trip when I finally connected with Transatlanticism
. Stuck in the back seat of a small sedan, every word that came out of Ben Gibbard's mouth perfectly portrayed my sentiments as a teenager, and the music blended seamlessly with the glow of the California coastline and the hurried lights of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Like any other Death Cab for Cutie album, the major draw to Transatlanticism
is Ben Gibbard's lyrics. Gibbard weaves his stories of love with a captivating simplicity and a pensive honesty that makes every line beautiful in its own right. "The Sound of Settling" is an ode to the indecision and regrets of letting a potential relationship pass by without it even starting. As Gibbard sings "And I'll sit and wonder / Of every love that could've been / If I'd only thought of something charming to say," its damn near impossible for his words not find their way into your consciousness and attach themselves to a missed opportunity, or two. "The Passenger Seat" perfectly displays all of the best qualities in Ben Gibbard's lyrics. On it he relates a charming tale of being caught in the moment; "Do they collide?/ I ask and you smile/ With my feet on the dash/ The world doesn't matter." The song comes to an end with Gibbard's delicate voice capping off the narrative with what is arguably one of the most charming sets of lyrics in his career; "When you feel embarrassed then I'll be your pride/ When you need directions then I'll be the guide/ For all time."
If Gibbard's delectable lyricism wasn't enough, the instrumentation found on Transatlanticism
perfectly compliments Gibbard's emotionally charged words. The album's opener, "The New Year", is built on a seductive web of layers. Chris Walla's production allows each guitar line, harmony, and volume swell enough space to ring distinctly as they all coalesce into a stunning climax. The use of layering is also prominent on the album's centerpiece and title track, "Transatlanticism". Beginning with only an off beat synthesized drum beat quietly placed under ringing piano chords, the instrumentation builds with the emotional level of the song. After the first verse, long guitar chords work their way into the piece soon followed by a simple 4/4 drum beat and a minimalistic, yet haunting guitar melody. The anticipation continues to build as Gibbard's voice gently and longingly repeats "I need you so much closer". The song finally floats in to a reverb soaked crescendo over a cathartic choral shout of "So, come on!". "Transatlanticism" is a testament to superb songwriting. No one part of the song stands out on its own, but together they meld into the pinnacle of beauty.
As an album, Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism
wholly embodies all aspects of love. Every want, every desire, every word spoken, and every word left unsaid. Its really quite breath taking. I have never had such an emotional connection to an album, much less a song, as much as I have with Transatlanticism
. It truly is perfect in every sense of the word.