Death Cab For Cutie, Transatlanticism

Chris Ryan

By Chris Ryan

on 08.29.11 in Reviews

Transatlanticism is more or less about a long distance relationship, but it’s also about a band letting go of its humble beginnings, its humble attitudes and opening up its sound to a wider world.

The right album from the right band at the right time

Released in 2003, Transatlanticism was the right album from the right band at the right time. Gibbard might declare that he doesn’t feel any different, as he does on the album’s lead track, “The New Year,” but things sound different, more open, more direct and, finally, recognizing their strengths — their subtle production flourishes, Gibbard’s ear-catching if occasionally cringeworthy lyrics and the band’s simple and lovely way with a melody — and playing to them.

Transatlanticism is Death Cab’s strongest collection of songs, showing off both their ability to play upbeat, if slightly sad, pop as well as glacially-paced meditations, without ever forgetting there is someone listening.

If earlier recordings were made for purposes of self-entertainment or self-therapy, Transatlanticism, despite its obviously personal resonance to Gibbard (the album ends with the line “this is fact, not fiction, for the first time in years”), is a record for listeners, both familiar and new to the band. Even songs that would ordinarily seem like indulgences, such as the seven-minute centerpiece title track, hang their hubris on a very relatable, as Gibbard repeats the mantra, “I need you so much closer,” over and over again.

Ultimately, it was “Sound Of Settling” that signaled this band was no longer settling for cult acclaim. It’s practically Gin Blossoms-esque in its immediate likeability. Gibbard, translating his emotionally naked, finely detailed poetics into catchy lines, sings about a hunger and with the “ba-ba’s” and fuzzed out chorus guitars, one gets the impression that hunger has something to do with reaching a bigger audience.