Review Summary: There'd be no distance that can hold us back.
I often ponder about what really defines an album as a true "classic" from beginning to end. Too often are great albums dragged down by minor details and a little bit of filler. Sometimes it takes time for an album to make its way into your heart. I remember when Kid A finally clicked. It took numerous listens for me to finally feel completely rewarded by it, nothing was immediate and I felt so distanced by it. The first time I heard Transatlanticsm immediately after purchasing it, I could only think of one word to describe it. Perfect. Never had I felt the draw to an album so quickly to want to make that accusation. I could have been wrong, but to this day Transatlanticism still gives me the same impression as much as it ever did. I still get goosebumps every time I hear the harmonizing of "So come on" on the piano-based title track, I still think think of every failed relationship when Gibbard sings "and now that's gone/it's like it wasn't there at all" on "Title and Registration" and I especially still feel weightless every time I hear him sing "with my feet on the dash/the world doesn't matter" on Passenger Seat.
Ben Gibbard has such a way with his words. Never are they too complex, too desperate or too gloomy. He often tells stories through his words; whether they be personal or completely fictional, the way he sings every line is painfully precise. His tone often evokes the position of neutral. He uses much emotion without using any emotion at all, letting your experiences and emotions fill in all of the gaps for which he provides. Every song feels like the metaphor for a relationship gone wrong, often alluding to a distance between two people. On the first track "The New Year" Gibbard sounds awfully sure of himself when he says "there'd be no distance that can hold us back", but by the time you reach "A Lack Of Color" he looks back regretfully when he sings "But I know it's too late/I should have given you a reason to stay". While Transatlanticism has no immediate concept, the allusion to this relationship feels apparent on all tracks.
As dark and emotional as Transatlanticism is, the songs aren't restricted to depressing or down-tempo tunes. Songs like "Expo 86" and "The Sound Of Settling" are surprisingly optimistic and bouncy, despite the dark lyrics. The most depressing song "Tiny Vessels" is Gibbard at his most bitter, telling of a fake love with lines such as "You are beautiful/but you don't mean a thing to me". The slowest and maybe most overlooked song on here "Lightness" may not be the most captivating musically, but has some of the best lyrics with lines such as "Oh instincts are misleading/you shouldn't think what you're feeling". On "Title and Registration" Gibbard relates the misleading name of a cars glove compartment to a place where he keeps an item that reminds him of a past love, which he must painfully go through while being pulled over on a rainy night. All of the songs have sort of continuity, being stitched together by random ambient effects to make each song amalgamate perfectly into the next song without interruption.
Transatlanticism is one of those records that undoubtedly stands the test of time. From the perfectly layered wall of sound guitars on "The New Year" to the splashes of piano behind the finger-picked acoustic guitar of "A Lack Of Color", Transatlanticism is an album that will pull at your emotions. It has all of the poppiness of past works to make it accessible, as well as the in-depth lyrics and emotions of Ben Gibbard to keep you coming back, over and over again.