Record #123: Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism (2003)

transatlanticism.jpgOf all of the DCFC-disparaging hipsters I know (which I have become on their latest release), I don’t think I’ve heard any of them say a word about Transatlanticism.

That’s probably as much because the record is as close to perfect as any emo-leaning indie band has gotten as it is because every single one of them owned this record when they were in high school and still secretly love it. 

Personally, I got into Death Cab my senior year of high school at the suggestion of a hardcore punk friend of mine, who brought up a similarity while I was playing Sunny Day Real Estate for him. My girlfriend at the time was also a huge fan, and one of our best friends burned me the Forbidden Pleasures EP. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until I got to college and heard my roommate listening to Transatlanticism (specifically, the heavy anthem of teenaged lust that is “We Looked Like Giants”) that I really started to care about the group.

At the time, Plans was being released, so both of them were played interchangeably on campus to the point that I lost track of which songs were on which record. But as the years have wore on, Transatlanticism stands a head taller than the record that followed it, and taller still over the rest of their discography, over both the understated DIY indie albums that preceded it and of the top-heavy, over-ambitious major-label affairs that followed it. It’s a record made by a band who was aware of their shortcomings and knew better than to send its singer’s small voice to peaks it would never reach.

Listening to it, it’s not hard to see why. There’s not a single wasted track on this album, and within those tracks, flaws are few and far between. From the imaginary wealth of the opening “The New Year” to the syncopated solo acoustic closer “A Lack of Color,” every track would be a standout on any other Death Cab album. There’s the soft-footed doomy shuffle of “Lightness,” the electronic drummed song as petition “Title and Registration” (with lines like “there’s no blame to how our love did surely fade” that read so much more poignantly after Gibbard’s high profile marriage and divorce to Zooey Deschanal), the bouncy “Sound of Settling” that stands as a pinnacle of the happy-sounding-sad-song genre, the gentle “Tiny Vessels” with its harder-than-hard pick up, the majestic twin ballads of “Transatlanticism” and “Passenger Seat,” the jangling guitars of the small day tragedy “Death of an Interior Designer”…

I could go on. This record is tied so closely to specific memories of so many people (it was a common love between my wife and I back in the days when we first met and I tried (unsuccessfully) to keep my crush on her a secret), but the record itself stands as a classic even without the mnemonic associations.

2 thoughts on “Record #123: Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism (2003)

  1. Pingback: Record #125: Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs (2008) | A Year of Vinyl

  2. Pingback: Record #476: Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys (2011) | A Year of Vinyl

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