Update (12/29/12): “You Are A Tourist” added.
After days of fist fights and bickering, Lauren and I have finally settled on a list of our 20 favorite songs by Death Cab for Cutie. We are both huge fans of the (originally) Seattle-based band, which means completely different lists for both of us. I’m a pretty understanding guy, so I compromised with Lauren and am really pumped about the following list of tracks.
As you’ll notice, none of the songs from the latest album are on this list. It’s not because the album isn’t fantastic (because it most definitely is!). It just didn’t seem right to make a snap judgment and compare the new material to the ‘classics’ so quickly. What are your favorite Death Cab for Cutie songs? What do you think of Codes and Keys? Should some of the new songs be on this list? Let us know in the comments!
“Transatlanticism” is perhaps Death Cab’s most anthemic track. Slowly climbing towards an epic climax, the song is arresting to say the least. The repetition of “So, come on” and the thick harmonies create something very transcendent and unifying. Even beyond the end chorus, though, the deep piano chords and simple, memorable guitar riffs also what make this song incredible. — Lauren McKinney
9. “Marching Bands of Manhattan”
“Marching Bands of Manhattan” was one of the first tracks off Plans that really hooked me. This is partially because it’s the opening song on the album, but mostly because it’s so damn good. Lush organs, delicate vocals, and genuine lyrics pay homage to my city. “Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole. Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound. But while you debate half empty and half full, it slowly rises. Your love is gonna drown.” — Eric Weiner
8. “A Movie Script Ending”
This track was one of the first that got me into Death Cab for Cutie. They’re still super raw here, which is part of the reason I love it so much. — Eric Weiner
7. “Your New Twin Sized Bed”
Arguably the best downtempo track off the band’s sixth studio album, Narrow Stairs, “Your New Twin Sized Bed” is quintessential Death Cab. The title says it all. This song tells a depressing tale of feelings we can all most likely relate to. — Eric Weiner
6. “Brothers On a Hotel Bed”
The opening moments of this song are a perfect example of Death Cab’s ability to craft emotive instrumental arrangements. The slow, patient piano intro demands introspection and relies as heavily on the deep keys as the atmospheric moments of silence in between. Few bands can communicate a fully constructed mood with only a few sounds and calculated silence. The later addition of percussion only adds to the character of the song, making it one of my favorites on Plans. – Lauren McKinney
5. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”
“Love of mine, someday you will die, but I’ll be right behind, I’ll follow you into the dark.” If you can get past its cute factor, you’ll realize how gorgeous everything about this song is. — Eric Weiner
4. “Tiny Vessels”
Ben Gibbard has never been one to write typical love songs, and he generally refrains from overemphasizing sappy heartbreak and unnecessary angst. “Tiny Vessels” is a brutally honest assessment of a relationship doomed to failure. There’s nothing to glorify or regret. Nothing to whine about. Like most transient connections, the one described here isn’t worth flourishes of metaphor and over-dramatization. This song is a very simple truth. — Lauren McKinney
3. “A Lack of Color”
Opting for gentle acoustic picking to drive the song, “A Lack of Color” is minimalistic in the best way possible. The lyrics are gut wrenching without inspiring sympathy, and Gibbard’s unique voice is showcased perfectly. “This is fact not fiction, for the first time in years.” – Eric Weiner
2. “What Sarah Said”
For a long time, “What Sarah Said” was simply an obscure track on Plans. Buried behind an opening piano riff that I didn’t find particularly interesting, the song was eclipsed by others that I fell in love with immediately. A year ago, though, the song was played for me during a long, late-night drive. It was then that I truly fell in love with the story it told. As engrossing or more than any other song, book, or movie on the subject, “What Sarah Said” perfectly captures the anger and desperation of losing someone. The imagery of waiting rooms and pacing feels real, and the refrain of “Who’s gonna watch you die” is probably one of the most powerful lyrical concepts I’ve ever encountered. – Lauren McKinney
1. “Blacking Out The Friction”
I know this doesn’t seem the most obvious pick for our favorite Death Cab for Cutie song, but we’re all entitled to our own opinions right? Whether it’s the live version on The John Byrd EP, the live session version on Studio X Sessions, or the album version on The Photo Album, “Blacking Out The Friction” tears me to shreds. Somehow, it’s also able to pick me up with a hidden sense of optimism that’s most evident in the live version. I love how they somehow rock out during their live rendition and then transition into a cover of Sebadoh’s “Brand New Love”. Brilliant. — Eric Weiner