MUSIC REVIEW | Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism (2003)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I like every single song on here.  I just think it would take dozens of listens before I’d be able to tell them apart without the aid of a track listing.”

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There was time at the turn of the millennium when my music consumption had probably hit its most narrow.  Punk rock courtesy of Bad Religion, The Vandals and NOFX, ska thanks to Reel Big Fish, and throwbacks to my teenaged years of Pearl Jam, Primus and Aussie indies of the 90s would have represented pretty much the sum total of my listening.  I didn’t listen to any radio and I wasn’t interested in recommendations from anyone else.  This was also a time when indie rock was quietly being taken over by sensitive grandeur.  Bands like Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend.  Bands I never gave a chance until long after the rest of the world.  Bands like Death Cab for Cutie, with records like Transatlanticism.

Souring, crunching guitars, driving drums and strong but vulnerable vocals.  It’s a combination I associate with all of the above mentioned grandly sensitive bands, and it’s a combination in full effect on The New Year.  The vulnerability is cranked up and the volume lowered right down for the dreamy reflections of Lightness, before reaching its most sensitively grand on Expo ’86.

Tiny Vessels gets the best results and takes the most advantage of the loud instrumentation, alongside introverted, quiet lyrics that sound like their straight out of a leather bound journal.  Is that a positive or negative?  I guess that depends on your opinion of dudes in their 20s who write in leather bound journals.

Transatlanticism reaches its most reflective, repetitive and indulgent on the title track, and it’s all the better for its overlong indulgence.  Because by this stage on the album, Death Cab for Cutie have so meticulously built their sonic world, that almost eight minutes of pretty much a single chord progression feels more than earned, it feels needed and perfectly placed.  It’s a similar dynamic used, with some added volume and grunt on We Looked Like Giants that pays off juts as well the second time around.
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Death Cab for Cutie strike an uncommon balance.  They’re obviously extremely accomplished musicians who can write extremely intricate songs.  But for all of those intricacies, Transatlanticim is kind of samey.  Which I don’t mean as a slight.  I like every single song on here.  I just think it would take dozens of listens before I’d be able to tell them apart without the aid of a track listing.

Death Cab for Cutie

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about Transatlanticism?
Pitchfork
Consequence of Sound
Sweet Georgia Breezes

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