10 Best Death Cab for Cutie Songs
Death Cab for Cutie songs have been gaining the respect of indie rock fans for almost 15 years now. The band's breakout success started with their 2003 album, 'Transatlanticism,' and really took off after their 2005 record, 'Plans.' Frontman Ben Gibbard, guitarist and producer Chris Walla, bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Jason McGerr have developed into one of the most accessible bands in rock today. For your enjoyment, Diffuser.fm counts down the 10 Best Death Cab for Cutie Songs.
Breakups are hard, especially if you lived together with your ex. 'I Was a Kaleidoscope,' taken from Death Cab for Cutie's third disc, 'The Photo Album,' describes walking into your former flame's place in the winter to gather your stuff. "And it's that look that you're giving me / That tells me exactly what you are thinking: 'This ain't working anymore,' Gibbard sings over an upbeat mix of guitars, drums, loops and subtle keys. The early sound of Death Cab before the shiny major label polish is still charming to listen to, which is why it comes in at No. 10 on our Best Death Cab for Cutie Songs list.
'Marching Bands of Manhattan' is the perfect opening track for their 2005 major label debut, 'Plans.' It starts slowly with organ-like keys, transitioning into the comforting voice of Gibbard and Harmer's steady bass line. 'Marching Bands of Manhattan' reaches a crescendo near the three-minute mark with Gibbard repeating, "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 or half full / It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown." With this track, the band continued to turn into indie rock royalty.
2011's 'Codes and Keys,' was a significant change of pace for Death Cab for Cutie. They relied less on guitar and more on exploring what new techniques they could apply to their sound. Thematically, 'Codes and Keys' differed greatly from the brooding 'Narrow Stairs' disc, a big reason likely being Gibbard's then-marriage to Zooey Deschanel. First single 'You Are a Tourist' showed the poppier side of Death Cab for Cutie, balancing the right mix of playful guitar riffs and keys. "When there's a burning in your heart / An endless yearning in your heart / Build it bigger than the sun / Let it grow, let it grow," Gibbard advises.
Landing at No. 7 on our Best Death Cab for Cutie Songs list is 'What Sarah Said.' For those who have experienced the pain of losing a loved one, Death Cab's six-minute opus about a dreadful visit to the hospital feels like an autobiography. Pianos take center stage on 'What Sarah Said,' bringing out the melancholic quality to the surface. The lingering guitars intertwine while the song describes the depressing details of feeling helpless while the person you care about is about to pass on. There is a lesson to be learned as Gibbard sings, "But I'm thinking of what Sarah said / That love is watching someone die."
The next cut to make our on our list of the 10 Best Death Cab for Cutie Songs also comes from 'Plans' and deals with the aspect of death. 'I Will Follow You Into the Dark' has Gibbard singing goodbye to his longtime love over a simple acoustic arrangement. "Love of mine / Someday you will die / But I'll be close behind / I'll follow you into the dark," Gibbard promises. Do you want to know what's more depressing? 'I Will Follow You Into the Dark' lost in the Best Pop Performance by a Duo Or Group With Vocals category to the Black Eyed Peas' 'My Humps' at the 2007 Grammy Awards.
2003 saw the release of Death Cab for Cutie's most polished album to date, 'Transatlanticism.' 'Title and Registration' was the third single from the disc about faded love. The simple guitar riffs and drum machine provide an appropriate backdrop for Gibbard's sad lyrics, like "There's no blame for how our love did slowly fade / And now that it's gone it's like it wasn't there at all / And here I rest where disappointment and regret collide / Lying awake at night." Due to the multi-layered arrangement of 'Title and Registration,' the band had to find creative ways to perform the song live.
Things got quite dark for Death Cab for Cutie with 'Narrow Stairs.' Led by the eight-minute epic 'I Will Possess Your Heart' -- which ranks at No. 4 on our best Death Cab for Cutie songs list -- the album is like the quiet, under-appreciated cousin to the peppier 'Plans' record. 'I Will Possess Your Heart' oozes with desperation for the affection of the one desired. The hypnotizing bass Harmer plucks grabs your attention while Gibbard yearns, "How I wish you could see the potential, the potential of you and me / It's like a book elegantly bound, but in a language that you can't read just yet."
'The Sound of Settling' was the second single from 'Transatlanticism,' which almost didn't make the final cut because Gibbard was uncomfortable with such a pop-friendly track. Luckily for us, guitarist and producer Chris Walla insisted that the song be included on the album. "Our youth is fleeting, old age is just around the bend and I can't wait to go gray / And I'll sit and wonder of every love that could have been / If I'd only thought of something charming to say," Gibbard muses. The infectious "bop ba" chorus almost makes you forget that 'The Sound of Settling' is another sad Death Cab for Cutie song.
When Death Cab for Cutie released 'Plans' after leaving longtime indie label Barsuk, it was a continuation of their previous record 'Transatlanticism.' Lead off single 'Soul Meets Body' is a melodic piece expertly crafted by the band -- some might consider it to be the 2000s version of R.E.M.'s 'Losing My Religion.' This is indie pop at its finest, with jangling acoustic guitars and precision-like harmonies. The lyrics "A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere" pretty much describe the effect 'Soul Meets Body' has on listeners, and the cut comes in at No. 2 on our Best Death Cab for Cutie Songs list.
Death Cab for Cutie aren't short on bittersweet tunes. 'Cath...,' which is based off the character of Catherine Earnshaw in the novel 'Wuthering Heights,' tells the tale of Cath marrying a "well-intentioned" man that she does not love. The music video depicts Cath's wedding and a man rushing to the ceremony in hopes of changing her mind. He ultimately fails as Gibbard explains, "You said your vows, and you closed the door / On so many men who would have loved you more." It's only appropriate in a Death Cab for Cutie song that the good guy loses in the end, though 'Cath...' tops our list.