Frontman Ben Gibbard preempted Death Cab for Cutie’s latest album Kintsugi with a plea for fans’ open-mindedness: “I completely respect and understand why people love Transatlanticism and We Have the Facts or Narrow Stairs, and I would hope that as we move forward, people listen with as little prejudice as they can and try to hear the music for what it is and not what they want it to be,” Gibbard told Rolling Stone.

His open call is a dilemma any band with a cherished back catalog encounters. Progression in their own art flies in the face of fans’ expectations, and new albums don’t stand a chance in the shadow of releases that a collective nostalgia has warped into myth status. For Death Cab for Cutie, it’s the hurdle of putting out new music in a post-O.C. world.

Death Cab’s early appeal resided in Gibbard’s transportive writing and the emotional heft of the band’s sonic landscapes and their combined ability to connect and latch on to listeners’ personal memories. It’s those very assets that seem to have frozen the band in mid-aughts carbonite. But we’d feel pretty uncomfortable if a nearly 40-something Gibbard was still singing, “You’d skip your early classes / And we’d learn how our bodies worked,” right?

In the gallery above, we attempt to compartmentalize our nostalgia to assess Death Cab for Cutie’s eight studio albums from Worst to First.

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