Archive for the Death Cab for Cutie Category

Links and Notes for 01/04/09

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo, Death Cab for Cutie, R.E.M., She and Him on January 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

* The two people you see pictured above are actress/musician Zooey Deschanel from the duo She & Him and Ben Gibbard from the band Death Cab for Cutie. They got engaged last week. Normally I don’t really care about celeb gossip, but Deschanel was largely responsible for one of my favorite releases of 2008, and Gibbard fronts one of my favorite bands.

I just hope that this happy news will lead to Gibbard actually writing some music in the new year that doesn’t make me want to kill myself. I love Death Cab for Cutie, but their music ranks among the most depressing I have ever heard. It stands in stark contrast with the sweet sounds of She & Him. Here’s wishing these two kids the best.

* In case you don’t trust my judgement, a twelve member panel of Austin music critics has named Alejandro Escovedo’s Real Animal as the Album of the Year for 2008. Escovedo also was tabbed as Best Live Act, and “Sister Lost Soul” and “Always a Friend” tied for Song of the Year honors. Earlier this week, I pegged Real Animal as my favorite release of ’08.

Author Stephen King, always a vocal advocate for Americana artists, also placed Alejandro in his best of list for the year. James McMurtry is in there as well.

* You may have caught this link in the post dealing with Tift Merritt as one my Top 10 posts… but I’m going to throw it up again. The Americana Music Association has released its list of The Top 100 Albums of 2008. The list is based on radio airplay from November 19, 2007 to November 10, 2008 (albums did not have to be released in . Each week several reporting radio stations, specialty shows and internet and satellite radio stations from all over the country report their playlists to the AMA.

This list is unique because it tracks album airplay instead of singles airplay. Anytime a song (any song) is played from an album, it counts as one spin. The AMA tallies the spins each week and posts the chart on their website at It’s a great way to keep up with new and current Americana releases.

This year’s Top 10 Albums for radio airplay according to the AMA Chart:
10. Real Animal by Alejandro Escovedo
09. Dirt Farmerby Levon Helm
08. Band of Heathens by Band of Heathens
07. Same Old Man by John Hiatt
06. Mescalito by Ryan Bingham
05. Another Country by Tift Merritt
04. Washington Square Serenade by Steve Earle
03. Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
02. Just Us Kids by James McMurtry
01. Trouble in Mind by Hayes Carll

* Some good stuff went on over at Star Maker Machine this past week. The theme was “In Memoriam,” and we posted music from artists who passed away in 2008. I posted on LeRoi Moore of The Dave Matthews Band and Chris Gaffney of The Hacienda Brothers.

* Anyone who reads this space regularly knows that I love two things… R.E.M. and birthday posts. Today I get to combine the two again and wish a very happy birthday to Michael Stipe of R.E.M. who turns 49 today.

Stipe began his career as the shy, unassuming singer who mumbled his lyrics and hid his face behind his long hair. He eventually embraced his fame, and now, Michael Stipe is the face of R.E.M., the face of any number of political and social movements, and the face of American Alternative Rock music for an entire generation. Hard to believe he’s been at it for over 25 years now.

Here are a few R.E.M. b-sides for your listening pleasure… links go to R.E.M. web store.

R.E.M.: Dark Globe (Buy Album)
R.E.M.: Fretless (Buy Album)

So This is the New Year…

Posted in Death Cab for Cutie on January 1, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

…and I don’t feel any different.

Death Cab for Cutie: The New Year (Buy Album)

Death Cab for Cutie: Plans

Posted in Death Cab for Cutie on August 25, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

We’re straying a little off the Americana path again today to focus on an album that I’ve been revisiting lately and have learned to like quite a bit. It’s the 2005 release from Death Cab for Cutie, Plans.

I first became aware of Death Cab for Cutie after reading all of the buzz and glowing reviews that surrounded their 2003 release, Transatlanticism. I purchased that album and listened to it a couple of times, but it didn’t seem to have the same effect on me that it did on the music press. I put the disc on the shelf and chalked Death Cab up as another one of those bands that would be critical darlings but never one of my favorites.

For that reason, I didn’t really pay much attention to the fawning reviews when Plans was released two years later. My wife (who eventually wound up with my copy of Transatlanticism and was converted) bought Plans and tried to tell me how much she liked it. Again… I didn’t really pay attention.

Then I heard the lead single from the album, “Soul Meets Body.”

Death Cab for Cutie: Soul Meets Body (Buy Album)

Just a great, bouncy, indie-pop tune that instantly had me hooked and drew me into the album. On the surface, it’s a catchy, sing-along love song. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll discover the same theme of loss and loneliness that permeates the whole album. Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard once said he is stuck by the feeling that even the strongest love will one day end in death and heartbreak. While this is a love song, it acknowledges that love will someday die and he wishes to die along with it. Gibbard manages to reign in the hopelessness that his thought brings him and vow to hold to his love close and savor every second of his time with her. The chorus:

“I do believe it’s true
That there are miles left in both of our shoes,
But if the silence takes you then I hope it takes me too.
So brown eyes I’ll hold you near.
‘Cause you’re the only song I want to hear.
A melody softly floating through my atmosphere.”

Much of the same sentiment is echoed in “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”

Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Follow You Into the Dark (Buy Album)

This is another love song that uses death as the ultimate expression of love. Again, Gibbard vows to follow his love into the silence when their days together are through. He makes the same promise he made in “Soul Meets Body” to hold her tight even until they go toward the blinding light together.

“Love of Mine, someday you will die.
But I’ll be close behind.
I’ll follow you into the dark.
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white.
Just our hands clasped tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark.”

If the first two songs I’ve mentioned share the promise to love each other until the end, then “What Sarah Said” makes good on those promises.

Death Cab for Cutie: What Sarah Said (Buy Album)

“What Sarah Said” is the most moving track on the album… a piano driven ballad that takes place in a hospital waiting room. Someone, it seems, is slipping away from Gibbard and he paints the picture beautifully. From the TV that no one can bear to watch, to the smell of ammonia, to the nervous pacing of the loved ones who are waiting for news… the listener is drawn into the room as well. Finally, the nurse comes in to deliver the news, but we never get to hear it. The narrator is too preocupied with what it actually was that Sarah said to hear the nurse at all.

“‘Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room.
Just nervous paces bracing for bad news.
Then the nurse comes around and everyone lifts their heads,
But I’m thinking of what Sarah said.
That love is watching someone die.”

I know this all seems very depressing, and Plans is the album that my wife says makes her want to kill herself. In fact, my first plan for this post was to simply list every track on the album along with the most depressing lyric in each song. There are lines on this disc about sorrow dripping through your heart like a leaky faucet, builiding a house for someone in your heart made out of rotten wood, and being aimless and filled with crippling doubt.

But then I realized there’s a little more here. The sadness faced by the characters in these songs is bred from their love and devotion. There will be sadness in life. That’s a fact. The key is to find that one person to hold near that will keep that sweet melody floating along.

Incidentally, I’ve since been turned around on Transatlanticism as well.