Counting Down

Death Cab For Cutie Albums From Worst To Best

By Claire Lobenfeld / April 4, 2013

The January announcement that the Postal Service would be reuniting for this year’s Coachella has been followed by snowballing PS news: a Give Up reissue, the celebration of the album’s 10-year anniversary, a full reunion tour, replete with album guest Jenny Lewis. As such, it’s the rare indie-rock enthusiast who is not plagued with Ben Gibbard On The Brain. But 2013 is not just a big year for Gibbard’s digital side project. In October, Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism turns a decade old. That album is arguably the record that transformed DCFC from Barsuk all-stars into a band able to headline the Theater At Madison Square Garden. Whether it was the title track’s placement on HBO’s macabre highbrow soap opera Six Feet Under, Seth Cohen of The O.C.‘s unadulterated obsession with the group, or countless other contributing factors, that album catapulted the band to much higher levels of awareness, and it serves as a milemarker for Death Cab’s sea change.

There’s always been a relative polish to what Death Cab does. Even on their debut full-length, Something About Airplanes, Gibbard and Co. proved they knew how to finesse luster out of lo-fi, and from there, only increasingly found ways to shine. Their music deals with a lot of weighty emotional issues — feeling like a stranger in your own home, the plundering of familial connections, and heartbreak after heartbreak after heartbreak — but their tracks tend toward anthemic with a dearth of sonic negativity.

To not rest on sad music for sad subjects is completely natural for a band who named themselves after a song by Elvis-On-Psychedelics act the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. It’s one of the facets of the group that endears them to so many — Gibbard’s detailed, sometimes tragic lyrics combined with Chris Walla’s billowing clarity on guitar, and the lulling yet driving percussion. It’s that cocktail that makes the Death Cab icons, and not just another indie rock band.

The excellence of their output isn’t relegated to their seven studio full-lengths, as the band also put out a number of impressive EPs and a collection of B-sides, rarities, etc., You Can Play These Songs With Chords. In honor of the Postal Service’s reunion tour, which kicks off April 9 at the Grand Sierra Theatre in Reno, NV, we’ll take a look at Ben Gibbard’s “other” band — but only the Studio Seven. It’s worth noting, though, that “Photobooth” from The Forbidden Love EP and “State Street Residential” from Chords arguably belong a 10 Best Songs list.

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