Top 10 Tracks: Death Cab For Cutie (part 2)

Here’s part 2 of my top 10 Death Cab for Cutie tracks, in no particular order…

Different Names for the Same Thing: Nobody lends drama to thoughtful angst quite like Benny G., and here’s more proof. The first part of the track consists of a piano, a thunderstorm, and Dr. Gibbard’s echoing vox. Distance and sadness right there. The second part accelerates into a jam, yet still there’s no closing the distance between what’s in his heart and what he’s looking for. Communication as infinite distance…classic stuff.

Bend to Squares: Death Cab makes a grandiose statement right out of the gate: we are mope, and we are proud. This is a great track, mournful and beautiful. The cello sounds less like an afterthought and more like a key component of the band’s sound. Gotta love that.

A Movie Script Ending: This is one of the band’s best riffs. Gibbard demonstrates his penchant for the turn of phrase and lyrical imagery: “As if saved from the gallows, there’s a bellow of buzzers and people stop working, and they’re all so excited – excited.” Loathing never sounded so pretty.

We Laugh Indoors: Another great riff, and now we’ve got some tempo to boot! Yet just when you think the band might get just a little bit aggressive, think again: “I loved you Guinevere, I loved you, Guinevere, I loved you” ad infinitum…

Transatlanticism: Death Cab doesn’t do epic all that often, but this one’s a masterpiece. Visual, narrative, climactic, cataclysmic, all full of pathos and the human condition. Nice melody and guitar too. As a thousand Gibbard’s howl “So come on!” who isn’t overwhelmed?

What are your favorite Death Cab tracks?

5 Things: “Wonderwall” by Oasis

5 Things I Love About “Wonderwall” by Oasis…

1. Liam’s non-dynamic vocal – he sounds like a bratty three year old in a grown man’s body, but it wouldn’t sound right otherwise. Even complete knuckleheads are born to do something great.
2. The cello…in my mind, it makes this the definitive recording of the song, even above the Ryan Adams version, but it manages to lurk in the background rather than stealing center stage from Noel’s genius acoustic patterns.
3. Somewhere in Europe, there is a college dropout with an acoustic guitar covering this song in a touristy, open air setting.
4. The utterly ubiquitous and gloriously ambiguous refrain: “And all the roads we have to walk are winding/And all the lights that lead us there are blinding.” It’s always true, but somehow, it manages to defy cliche…
5. It’s a masterpiece of impressionist pop songwriting. Fifteen years on, and it’s still anybody’s guess what a “wonderwall” is, yet we all sing it like we know.

5 Things: “Hearts of Stone” by Bruce Springsteen

5 Things I Love About Bruce Springsteen’s “Hearts of Stone”…

1. Steve Van Zant’s nasty backing vocals.
2. The saxophone – God bless you, Big Man.
3. The Boss’ delivery – totally over-the-moon, even for Springsteen.
4. The tempo – so slow the song just oozes heart and soul from every crack.
5. “I can’t talk now I’m not alone/So put your ear close to the phone/This is the last dance/Our last chance…”

What do you like about “Hearts of Stone”?

Cool News: Over the Rhine Concoct Harebrained Scheme to Fund New Album!

Looks like Over the Rhine is gearing up for recording a new album in the next few months. They’ve released their last few records on their own label, Great Speckled Dog, but this time around they are looking to partner with their (completely obsessive in a good way) fans in order to fund the album up front. You can get the details by going here, but the short of it is that if you can shell out, oh, $2,500, you can get credit for producing the record in executive fashion! BAD-ASS!!!

You can also pay a lot less and still get some pretty cool stuff, but this is the first time I’ve heard of something like this, and I have to say, daggonit, I think it’s a totally cool idea. No matter what you think, a new Over the Rhine LP is a worthy cause, so get on over and donate your kids’ futures!

5 Reasons: “So Runs the World Away” by Josh Ritter

5 Reasons I’m looking forward to Josh Ritter’s new album So Runs the World Away:

– This is the guy who made The Animal Years, one of the best albums of the last decade.
– He’s now happily married to another excellent songwriter, Dawn Landes. One would hope this spells good things for his songwriting.
– He just previewed a few of these songs during a Daytrotter session, and they sound great.
– I was not completely enamored with his last album, “Historical Conquests.” Usually, that means I REALLY like the artists’ next album. See Wilco (A Ghost Is Born => Sky Blue Sky), Radiohead (Hail to the Thief => In Rainbows)…
– He’s been re-recording his back catalog in solo acoustic mode. The process of getting back to basics tends to improve a songwriter’s artistry.

So Runs the World Away is out May 4th on Pytheas.

Are you looking forward to this album? Why or why not?

Top 10 Tracks: Death Cab For Cutie (part 1)

Here’s part 1 of my top 10 Death Cab for Cutie tracks, in no particular order…

Grapevine Fires: This is the strongest track on their last album. It’s a serious stylistic change-up for the band, and a total success at that.

Photobooth: It displays all that is great about the “classic” Death Cab sound, and the band gets style points for the clever and catchy use of the click track.

405: The band opened with this when I saw their “welcome home, world conquerors” show in Seattle in 2006. The 405 is the Seattle interstate bypass, but to me this one drives straight into the heart of that city.

The Employment Pages: Close your eyes and put on your headphones for this one. When you begin to float away on clouds of mopey, ethereal bliss, you’ll understand why people go nuts about Death Cab for Cutie. Classic lyric: “We spread out/And occupied the cracks in the urban streets.”

Title & Registration: This hyper catchy tune features a classic Death Cab riff, but it’s the lyrics that ultimately steal the show. The fact that Gibbard can take something as common place as a glove compartment and stretch it into a mournful meditation on love lost as prison cell shows just what kind of talent we are dealing with. Simply put, this is masterful songwriting.

5 Things: “Luv Goon” by Pearl Harbor

5 things I love about “Luv Goon” by Pearl Harbor…

1) That guitar – it’s the best of Peter Buck, The Edge, and Johnny Marr all rolled into one.
2) The blinding brightness of the song.
3) The siren song vocals – gorgeous, though I can’t understand a word…
4) Except the chorus: “Anything you want me to/I’m your love goon”
5) Gotta say I love that guitar again. Just fabulous!

What about you?

Real Estate: s/t LP (2009)

Real Estate
Real Estate
Woodsist; 2009

My Rating: 95/100

As a kid, I never stepped foot on a beach north of Cumberland Island, Georgia. I was a complete southern surf snob, and to this day I find myself cringing at the thought of putting my bare feet onto oceanside territory north of Myrtle Beach. Jersey shores? I would have said a big “no way” even a year ago, but having had the opportunity to bask in the warm, slow sunrise of Jersey’s own Real Estate for the last few months, I might just learn to see the Garden State’s beaches in a different light. Real Estate is neck and neck with The Low Anthem for my favorite breakthrough act of 2009, and the more time I spend with their eponymous debut, the more these beach kings seem fit to ascend. At first, Real Estate rubs off like any given garage act recorded on a ceiling-suspended vocal mic, with a few gobs of vaseline slathered on for maximum haze. But for all the amateurism apparent in the recording quality, this record achieves the same lo-fi grandeur that Pavement achieved with Slanted & Enchanted, resulting in a magical, misty band-next-door aura shot through with melody and wit. The album wins because the songs themselves are gorgeous and perfect. The chattery, twin guitar interplay of Mathew Mondanile and Martin Courtney dwells on the winsome side of the Marquee Moon, and Etienne Duguay’s understated percussion shepherds the tracks into dreamland. It’s hard to identify standouts because this is an incredibly consistent record, but I’d to say my top three are “Beach Comber”, “Green River”, and “Suburban Beverage.” Overall, this is a record brimming with nostalgia and good vibrations, as true to the beach life as you can get. It also might be the last classic debut LP of the decade now past, but for what its worth, I think it makes the case that Real Estate’s best days lay ahead of us.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)


1. Beach Comber (5/5)
2. Pool Swimmers (5/5)
3. Suburban Dogs (5/5)
4. Black Lake (5/5)
5. Atlantic City (5/5)
6. Fake Blues (5/5)
7. Green River (5/5)
8. Suburban Beverage (5/5)
9. Let’s Rock the Beach (5/5)
10. Snow Day (5/5)

5 Things: “Secret of the Sea” by Billy Bragg/Wilco

5 things I love about “Secret of the Sea”…

1. It’s Woody Guthrie and power pop all in one.
2. “If you could guess the secret of my love for you/Then we both could know the secret of the sea”
3. The ragtime piano breakdown.
4. Tweedy’s vox, some of his best ever.
5. Bennett’s slide work, one of his signature sounds.

What do you love about this track?

5 Things: “Caboose” by Snapcase

5 Things I Love About “Caboose” by Snapcase…

1. The opening drum fill
2. The hanging-by-a-thread tension of the seconds leading up to 0:25
3. The full-throttle explosive moments after 0:25
4. The rapid-fire guitar harmonics
5. The completely right-angled rhythms of the track

One of my top 10 album openers…