The Sound of Settling
by rick olivares
It took me a while to warm up to Death Cab for Cutie. I was aware of Ben Gibbard’s side project All-Time Quarterback having listened to it theindiepages.com. I was in the throes of my nu-metal phase and was going indie.
Even before I briefly worked at Virgin Records in Times Square, I would always go to the indie rack on the ground floor and prominent in the display was DCfC’s Transatlanticism.
I would for quite some time pick up another disc but not the DCfC album. Until finally, I did. And the CD was hardly over and I knew it was an instant classic. It’s the kind of album that defines a band.
Last night I went to watch DCfC at the NBC Tent at the Fort and I loved the venue for its smallness that made the show all the more intimate. Sure I miss watching them in small clubs that was a different time. Transatlanticism took this Washington band to a whole new level.
The last time I saw them was at the Siren Music Festival in Coney Island and the show remains one of the best I’ve seen. With the Atlantic Ocean behind them, some five to six thousand people in attendance, the performance was equal parts solemn and poignant but no less powerful. It wasn’t a power pop performance but it was one that hit you in the heart and mind. More so when “Transatlanticism” was played. The song and the album were new. Some people in the crowd knew the lyrics but most didn’t. So people listened to Ben Gibbard sing his heart out.
At the NBC Tent last night. It was a sing-song affair as the crowd was familiar with the last three albums. But once DCfC got to the old albums like We’ve Got the Facts and We’re Voting Yes and The Photo Album, they were quiet.
But the 23-song show will reverberate not just because of the powerful performance but the emotions the songs conveyed. What I have always loved about DCfC is their unconventional method to songwriting. They have that soft-loud dynamic popularized by the Pixies and perfected by Seattle bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam but Ben Gibbard and company’s use of the electric piano and a melodic bass line can create haunting songs. Songs that take you places and memories both good and bad. Take for example “Unobstructed Views” from Codes and Keys. It makes me think of bad days; a painful breakup that needs healing. I don’t even need to wait for Gibbard to sing the lyrics. The long and moving intro alone does that for me.
The musicianship of the band has gotten better and I dare say that they are at the height of their powers. Many thought that when they signed with Atlantic they would lose their indie charm and creativity. While Transatlanticism and The Photo Album remain my favorite, the last three albums are something I can get to any day of the week – Plans, Narrows Stairs, and Codes and Keys. The latter sounds like Part II of what seems to be like a trilogy for DCfC (in the same vein of The Cure’s Pornography, Disintegration, and under-the-radar Bloodflowers).
Maybe to prove my theory, DCfC played six and five songs from Transatlanticism and Codes and Keys.
Over the course of show, Gibbard’s voice turned raspy but I thought that it greatly added to the power of his songs and lyrics. Death Cab for Cutie is one of the few bands I never tire of listening to time and again and this performance will make me listen to the songs in a different perspective; a good memory to draw upon.
And the last two songs of the entire show – “A Movie Script Ending” and the hauntingly beautiful “Transatlanticism” were a perfect way to end the evening.
The show was to crib their song title – “ a soul meets body” experience. The songs, the show, the melodies will be softly soaring through my atmosphere.
1. A Lack of Color
2. I Will Possess Your Heart
3. Crooked Teeth
4. We Laugh Indoors
6. Doors Unlocked and Open
7. Long Division
8. Grapevine Fires
9. Codes and Keys
10. What Sarah Said
11. I Will Follow You Into the Dark
12. Title and Registration
13. You Are a Tourist
14. The New Year
15. Company Calls
16. Soul Meets Body
18. We Looked Like Giants
19. The Sound of Settling
20. Home is a Fire
21. Meet me in the Equinox
22. A Movie Script Ending
Additional reading: http://the11-11pages.blogspot.com/2010/09/death-cab-for-cutie-zach-braff-and.html