The indie rock universe eagerly awaits the March 31 release of Death Cab for Cutie's Kintsugi, the group's eighth full-length and final with founding guitarist Chris Walla. One of the most commercially successful indie bands of the 21st century, Death Cab went platinum with 2005's Plans and have reached the Top 10 of Billboard's Alternative Songs chart seven times and counting.
The band will visit the Twin Cities for the first time in four years on May 2, when they'll play a sold-out Northrop. Now a trio consisting of singer Ben Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Jason McGerr, they'll seek to prove that a three-wheeled cab can still drive just fine.
In anticipation of the new album and the upcoming tour, here's ranking of all 96 tunes that Death Cab has released since 1997. Take a seat and follow me into the dark. (Note: Covers are not included, while songs that appear on multiple releases are only listed once.)[jump]
96. "Portable Television," Codes and Keys, 2011
The Mr. Irrelevant of the Death Cab for Cutie songbook feels like an attempt to recreate the post-collegiate charm of the band's early work, except viewed through the lens of a millionaire married to Zooey Deschanel. The chorus is just a bunch of "oh oh oh"s.
95. "Some Boys," Codes and Keys, 2011
Some boys are filling the hole, some boys are singing the blues and some songs are taking up space on Death Cab albums.
94. "Flustered/Hey Tomcat!," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
This bonus track from the Chords reissue isn't so much an entry into the Death Cab catalog as it is an experiment in audio collaging. Maybe Dntel heard it and wanted to form the Postal Service with Gibbard?
93. "New Candles," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
Death Cab certainly wouldn't have been the same band with Walla singing, since he apparently prefers writing about his assorted household items instead of his various love interests. This is one of two early songs where Walla handles lead vocals.
92. "Jealousy Rides with Me," "Soul Meets Body" single, 2005
Nobody how hard Gibbard tries, he can't shake his jealous tendencies. It beats loneliness, he concludes in this slow, piano-based B-side.
91. "Someday You Will Be Loved," Plans, 2005
This song was much better when it was called "Tiny Vessels" and on Transatlanticism. Walla adds a nice little guitar solo here, though. Hopefully this girl found true love in the past decade.
90. "Monday Morning," Codes and Keys, 2011
Sunday night drinking? Monday morning hangover. A lo-fi version of this bouncy tune would've fit well on You Can Play These Songs with Chords, but it's ultimately a mid-album throwaway.
89. "I Will Possess Your Heart," Narrow Stairs, 2008
Death Cab was in full rebellion mode after their success with Plans and Transatlanticism. What better way to throw a curveball than to release an eight-minute song as the first single? Unfortunately, "Heart" ambles along aimlessly for four minutes before Gibbard enters with a repetitive melody and lyric. Luckily, Narrow Stairs resulted in much better experiments.
88. "Little Bribes," The Open Door EP, 2009
It's ironic that this inoffensive selection from a stop-gap EP is set in a casino, because it's not much of a gamble musically.
87. "Prove My Hypothesis," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
Death Cab's first drummer did indeed prove Gibbard's hypotheses by leaving the band shortly after this song was written. The prescient lyrics describe a group losing their timekeeper to a regular job.
86. "Pictures in an Exhibition," Something About Airplanes, 1998
Most of Something About Airplanes is best viewed as a prequel to what would follow as Gibbard came into his own on We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes.
85. "Champagne from a Paper Cup," Something About Airplanes, 1998
Ben, you were 20 years old when you recorded this for You Can Play These Songs with Chords! How would you know what drinking champagne from a paper cup is like?
84. "Codes and Keys," Codes and Keys, 2011
The main problem with Codes and Keys is that it lacks a distinct identity amongst the rest of Death Cab's works. The pleasant-enough title track couldn't have said that any better.
83. "Tomorrow," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
Is that New Order playing? No, it's just Death Cab trying on one of the many hats they wear on the expanded edition of Chords.
82. "President of What?" Something About Airplanes, 1998
With the second song from Death Cab's debut, most of the world was introduced to Gibbard the irrationally jealous boyfriend, rather than Gibbard the big ol' teddy bear with glasses.
81. "Fake Frowns," Something About Airplanes, 1998
This early rocker certainly doesn't deserve any fake frowns, so maybe a legitimate encouraging smile is more appropriate.
80. "Gridlock Caravans," The Photo Album, 2001
Included on the U.K. and Japanese editions of The Photo Album, this minute-long track understandably feels incomplete. Couldn't add another verse and bridge about life passing you by, boys?
79. "TV Trays," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
Gibbard's voice is barely recognizable on this, which tune captures the summer ennui for those who are bored and underemployed.
78. "Information Travels Faster," The Photo Album, 2001
Casual fans of "Soul Meets Body" and "I Will Follow You into the Dark" might be surprised to learn that Gibbard has a mean streak in him, too. "You wanted me to write you letters, but I'd rather lose your address," he sings to a girl he doesn't plan on seeing again.
77. "Talking Bird," Narrow Stairs, 2008
Gibbard is known for his songs about the British kind of bird, so why not try his hand at one about the flying variety? Either that or it's just a pretty ditty about a girl who wants to spread her wings.
76. "Home is a Fire," Codes and Keys, 2011
Somewhere in an alternate reality, Gibbard combined his two bands into Postal Service for Cutie. This is their big hit.
75. "Styrofoam Plates," The Photo Album, 2011
I've always felt bad for Gibbard's father, since this first-person song about a deadbeat dad is actually about one of the singer's friends' families. That's never made clear though. The elder Gibbard must get some strange looks when he meets Death Cab fans.
74. "A Diamond and a Tether," The Open Door EP, 2009
There are two things Gibbard does better than most - melody and metaphor - and they're both here in this song, which Death Cab should've found a place for on Narrow Stairs.
73. "You Can Do Better Than Me," Narrow Stairs, 2008
The members of Death Cab must've been listening to a lot of Pet Sounds on tour, because the shortest song on Narrow Stairs is a chamber-pop nugget that screams Brian Wilson.
72. "Amputations," Something About Airplanes, 1998
Something About Airplanes is unique in the Death Cab discography in that after it, the band completely ditched the audio samples that adorn this and "President of What?" This track ends with a selection from an old motivational record.
71. "Two Cars," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
That sweet synth line makes this song one of the most distinctive of Death Cab's early work. Good luck getting it out of your head.
70. "State Street Residential," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
This moody composition would've been right at home on Something About Airplanes. Gibbard is drunk in this one, thinking about all the things the alcohol is making him do.
69. "I Was Once a Loyal Lover," The Open Door EP, 2009
This Narrow Stairs leftover is an account of Gibbard's wayward alcohol and womanizing years. If the lyrics are to be believed, multiple females uttered this exact sentence to him: "I've never met someone more self-centered who thinks that life with a nice girl's like waiting for a bus to work." Must've been a copy-and-paste job from the "I Slept With Ben Gibbard" MySpace group.
68. "Crooked Teeth," Plans, 2005
It's as if the record company heard Plans and said, "Where's the 'Sound of Settling'?" This is a joyous cut that lifts the heavy mood of the album's second side.
67. "St. Peter's Cathedral," Codes and Keys, 2011
Gibbard is well-versed in existentialistic lyrics, but this only time he's tackled religion. The gentle "There's nothing past this" outro is the highlight here.
66. "Different Names for the Same Thing," Plans, 2005
The first half of this minor key Plans cut is just Gibbard, a piano and some vinyl cracks and pops. Then it explodes into a full-band coda, giving the listener a different take on the same song.
65. "Your Heart is an Empty Room," Plans, 2005
Walla does his best Edge impersonation in punctuating his singer's lyrics about starting over.
64. "Death of an Interior Decorator," Transatlanticism, 2003
I've always felt that this song would've worked better as a B-side, as it interrupts the flow of Transatlanticism's second half. It's stuck between "Passenger Seat" and "We Looked Like Giants," two superior songs about being in a car with your lover that belong next two each other on the tracklisting. Simply judging this track on its own, however, I can't say a bad thing about it.
63. "You Are a Tourist," Codes and Keys, 2011
The first single from Codes and Keys is most notable for its music video, which was shot in one take that was streamed live on YouTube. As a song it's pretty much late-era Death Cab by-the-numbers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
62. "I Was a Kaleidoscope," The Photo Album, 2001
The bespectacled Gibbard is walking in the snow, his teeth chattering rhythms in Morse code and the flakes distorting his lenses. It's one of his best early lyrical concepts.
61. "Long Division," Narrow Stairs, 2008
With this metaphor-heavy song, Gibbard completes his nerdy image by penning a lyric that compares a relationship to a high school math problem.
60. "Spring Break Broke," Death Cab for Fiver, 2000
This laid-back deep cut is included on the rare split 7" that Death Cab released with Fierce Panda recording artists Fiver in 2000. It's about playing a college show where "the kids were ablaze with drinks cradled in every hand."
59. "Bend to Squares," Something About Airplanes, 1998
It's a ballsy move to open your first album with your slowest number, especially when it's four-and-half minutes long and features a cello. Good call, though. Trying to put this sleepy song anywhere else on the record would be like bending a square into a circular hole.
58. "That's Incentive," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
This would be the only time that Death Cab resembled a punk band. A little anger has always suited them well.
57. "Hindsight," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
This wide-open track highlights Gibbard's early knack for a melody. Pretty shitty move to break up with someone on a nice drive through the country.
56. "Doors Unlocked and Open," Codes and Keys, 2011
Death Cab seemed to remain stagnant for the first time in their career on Codes and Keys, but here they created an interesting sound worth exploring. Should've unlocked some other doors while they were at it.
55. "Why You'd Want to Live Here," The Photo Album, 2001
Death Cab may have gotten famous thanks to The OC, but that doesn't mean they're fans of southern California. Gibbard rips Los Angeles a new one on this uncharacteristically literal rant.
54. "Pity and Fear," Narrow Stairs, 2008
That strange percussion you hear is courtesy of an Indian drum machine, which adds an interesting sonic texture to this song. Plenty of fans were surely thrown for a loop on release day when it spontaneously cut off at the end.
53. "Lightness," Transatlanticism, 2003
Gibbard is struggling to figure his girl out on Transatlanticism's second track, but there's one thing he knows - "there's a tear in the fabric of your favorite dress and I'm sneaking glances." Who can blame him?
52. "Meet Me on the Equinox," The Twilight Saga: New Moon - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2009
Death Cab went anthemic for the lead single from this Twilight movie's soundtrack. Those movies weren't good for much, but their soundtracks always featured new songs by quality bands.
51. "Stable Song," Plans, 2005
Death Cab re-appropriated the 12-minute title track of 2002's Stability EP for Plans, cutting it down to under four minutes and making it the album closer.
50. "My Mirror Speaks," The Open Door EP, 2009
Fittingly, this song finds Gibbard giving himself a good, hard look in the mirror. "It sees a child in the body of a full-grown man," he says. Zooey Deschanel might agree.
49. "Talking Like Turnstiles," "Crooked Teeth" single, 2005
This Plans outtake backed "Crooked Teeth" when B-sides were still a thing. Its spindly guitars sound more akin to The Photo Album than Plans, though.
48. "Steadier Footing," The Photo Album, 2001
There must've been a problem with the camera. At just one minute at 47 seconds, the first picture in The Photo Album is unfortunately only half-developed. This nice little intro is a snapshot of the hangout after the party, where conversation is combined with "watching the drunks stumble forth into the night."
47. "Technicolor Girls," The Forbidden Love EP, 2000
Gibbard would've had his five-year high school reunion around the time he presumably wrote this ditty about how adults never turn out the way their teenage selves assumed they would. Chance the Rapper is apparently a big fan of this deep cut, as he sampled it on a 2013 mixtape.
46. "Passenger Seat," Transatlanticism, 2003
"With my feet on the dash, the world doesn't matter," Gibbard sings in Transatlanticism's atmospheric slow-dance song, where trust between lovers is the key.
45. "No Sunlight," Narrow Stairs, 2008
Death Cab intentionally took a bunch of left turns on Narrow Stairs, but they never forgot how to write a pop song. Here, Harmer's bass drives the punchy melody.
44. "Company Calls," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
Facts tells the story of a boy and girl who meet at a party, date and then break up. This upbeat song and the subdued epilogue that follows it find the girl inviting the boy to her wedding. In part one, he briefly considers running off to Europe as an excuse not to attend the wedding, but ultimately resolves to accept the invitation. Granted, his sights are set on destroying the "mock shrine" of her marriage.
43. "Little Fury Bugs," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
Possibly the slowest song that Death Cab has ever recorded, this one doesn't sport the most optimistic worldview: "You'll discover that casual friends kept notes in their pockets to remember your name."
42. "20th Century Towers," The Stability EP, 2002
Released just five months later, it's completely possible that this song is about 9/11 ("What a tragic way to see our final days"), but that's never made clear. One thing is for certain - the moment where Gibbard yells "All around" is glorious.
41. "Unobstructed Views," Codes and Keys, 2011
Gibbard sure knows his way around a piano ballad. This six-minute Codes and Keys highlight builds and builds to a vocal climax that's as unlikely as it is satisfying - the "New love" part.
40. "Expo '86," Transatlanticism, 2003
Named after the 1986 Vancouver World Fair for reasons unknown, this jaunty slice of indie pop finds Gibbard anticipating the downfall of his relationship. The singer was only 10 at the time of the expo, so it's doubtful that this tune is sung from his fifth-grade perspective. At least I hope not.
39. "Sleep Spent," Something About Airplanes, 1998
"Drive away your mouth from my ear" might be the most polite way someone has ever said "shut up." Wrap it up in one of Gibbard's sweetly mellow melodies, and you'd have sworn he was paying her a compliment.
38. "The Ice is Getting Thinner," Narrow Stairs, 2008
Gibbard loves a good relationship metaphor, and what better than likening a breakup to the melting of ice?
37. "Your New Twin Sized Bed," Narrow Stairs, 2008
"You looked so defeated lying there in your new twin sized bed," Gibbard sings to an unknown friend, finally not the one who's giving up on love. Although, he could be singing to himself.
36. "Your Bruise," Something About Airplanes, 1998
Like its title suggests, this catchy early cut will leave a mark. Walla's guitar and Harmer's bass interlock seamlessly for a killer slice of late '90s indie rock.
35. "A Movie Script Ending," The Photo Album, 2001
For those wondering how many times Gibbard says "highway" in the song, it's 20. The road is taking him away from his hometown of Bellingham, Washington, the subject of his dreams during "unconscious states" - a classic Death Cab double-meaning.
34. "The Employment Pages," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
For many people, one's early 20s are spent scouring the classifieds for work (at least that's how it worked in the '90s). The narrator is up late at night, rearranging the furniture and listening to music too loudly. Might as well - "I was calling around but nothing was found worthwhile."
33. "Line of Best Fit," Something About Airplanes, 1998
The instrumental outro sends out Death Cab's first album in a triumphant fashion. It's worth noting that the beautiful female vocals provided by Abi Hall mark her only appearance in all of recorded music -- Google can find no other trace of her.
32. "Tiny Vessels," Transatlanticism, 2003
Gibbard doesn't come off looking like the greatest guy in this song, in which he painstakingly details the process of hickey formation. "You are beautiful, but you don't mean a thing to me," he sings.
31. "Stay Young, Go Dancing," Codes and Keys, 2011
The final song on Codes and Keys shares a wonderful sentiment: "As autumn's advancing, we'll stay young, go dancing." The first happy Death Cab album closer?
30. "Cath...," Narrow Stairs, 2008
The upbeat second single from Narrow Stairs focuses on a woman and the man she's settling for (BA BA!). "You said your vows, and you closed the door on so many men who would've loved you more," Gibbard confides before resolving, "I'd have done the same as you."
29. "The Sound of Settling," Transatlanticism, 2003
One of Death Cab's most popular and enduring songs, it almost didn't make the cut for Transatlanticism due to Gibbard's dislike for upbeat pop songs at the time. His guitarist/producer Walla pulled rank and demanded it be included.
28. "Underneath the Sycamore," Codes and Keys, 2011
A classic Gibbard melody is accompanied by a matching lead guitar line in this exquisite cut, the best track on Death Cab's critical low-point.
27. "Grapevine Fires," Narrow Stairs, 2008
Watching a fire burn never sounded so romantic. It's worth noting that Gibbard had graduated from champagne in a paper cup to wine in a paper cup in the decade since Something About Airplanes.
26. "I Will Follow You into the Dark," Plans, 2005
My friend and I joke that Gibbard actually wrote his band's most famous song back in the '90s, but saved it until his band hit the big time. I expect to still be hearing this one when I chaperone my grandson's middle school dance in 2065.
25. "Blacking Out the Friction," The Photo Album, 2001
Walla's distorted guitar complements Gibbard's pretty piano line and gentle vocal melody perfectly here, giving this tender tune a harder edge.
24. "Coney Island," The Photo Album, 2001
Is this a happy or sad song? Ask 10 different people and you might not reach a consensus. Gibbard is sitting on a ride after hours at Brooklyn's famous amusement park, listening to the waves of the Atlantic and romanticizing "roller coaster screams from summers past." You're happy for him when he says he "could not help from smiling," but the last two lines throw you off: "Brooklyn will fill in the beach eventually/Everyone will go except me."
23. "For What Reason," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
Don't do the vengeful Gibbard wrong. "This won't be the last you hear from me," he sings in this urgently melodic track. "It's just the start."
22. "Lowell, MA," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
This song is very much a companion piece to "For What Reason," the track that precedes it on Facts. The chorus is just a single line on paper, but it's one of the catchiest refrains Death Cab has ever composed.
21. "Soul Meets Body," Plans, 2005
A real 180 from the guy that didn't care for upbeat pop songs two years earlier, but it's a good thing Gibbard changed his mind. Harmer's bass drives this song along, Walla's guitar gives it warmth and that melody softly soars into the atmosphere.
20. "Company Calls Epilogue," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
Facts' male protagonist is now attending the wedding of his former flame, and he's understandably a mess - screaming, drunk and disorderly. "You were the one, but I can't spit it out when the date's been set" is one of the most heartbreaking lines Gibbard has ever put to record.
19. "Song for Kelly Huckaby," The Forbidden Love EP, 2000
If Facebook had been a thing in 2000, the 13 Kelly Huckabys on there would've been inundated with friend requests. This rocker, which almost made Facts, imagines Death Cab as a shoegaze band.
18. "Marching Bands of Manhattan," Plans, 2005
You lucky girl, the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie loves you so much that he's willing to physically move Manhattan for you! Good thing he didn't, because then the band couldn't headline Madison Square Garden for the first time ever later this year.
17. "A Lack of Color," Transatlanticism, 2003
This atmospheric acoustic cut closes Transatlanticism out on a gentle note. "This is fact not fiction, for the first time in years," he assures his lover.
16. "Bixby Canyon Bridge," Narrow Stairs, 2008
The opener of Narrow Stairs is possibly Death Cab's trippiest tune. It finds Gibbard following Jack Kerouac's Big Sur trail from San Francisco. Featuring a beefy chorus and a swirling solo, this song made it clear that the band wasn't looking to make Plans II.
15. "Army Corps of Architects," You Can Play These Songs with Chords, 1997
It's buried on the reissue of an album of demos, but this is the best song Death Cab released in the '90s. A thoughtful guitar riff soundtracks Gibbard's lyrics about starting again somewhere new and flattening one's personal skyline.
14. "No Joy in Mudville," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
This tune takes its name from the popular 19th century baseball poem Casey at the Bat. The song's narrator has gone done swinging in the game of love, much like the poem's protagonist did at home plate. Mighty Casey may have struck out, but Mighty Ben hit a home run with this early gem.
13. "We Laugh Indoors," The Photo Album, 2001
Gibbard was a fan of repetition in the early 2000s. After repeating the word "highway" 20 times across the choruses of "A Movie Script Ending," he says the phrase "I loved you Guinivere" 24 times here. The rocked-out middle eight is possibly Death Cab's most musically abrasive moment.
12. "Photobooth," The Forbidden Love EP, 2000
All Gibbard has to remember the good times is a strip of paper with a few goofy pictures on it. "Pack a change of clothes, 'cause it's time to move on."
11. "Debate Exposes Doubt," The Photo Album, 2001
"The impossibility of one to love unconditionally" isn't such an impossibility when Gibbard witnesses true love on the dance floor. "Finally there is clarity... this tiny life is making sense," he sings in the final verse of The Photo Album's contemplative closer.
10. "Scientist Studies," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
By a hair, this is the best way Death Cab has ever ended an album. It's the conclusion of the Facts storyline, a peppy tune that leads to a chaotic and cathartic climax. About that whole wedding business? "I may have got an invitation but I wasn't invited."
9. "The New Year," Transatlanticism, 2003
A twentysomething Gibbard might not have been the most joyous guest at your New Year's Eve party, as the grandiose Transatlanticism opener suggests. "So this is the new year/And I don't feel any different," he sings, approximating the January 1 emotions of more people than might admit it. This song includes one of the frontman's best lyrics ever in "I wish the world was flat like the old days, so I could travel just by folding a map."
8. "Summer Skin," Plans, 2005
The interplay between the bass and piano in this track does better than most words could to evoke the hot air of July and August, but Gibbard's lyrics about squeaky swings, tall grass and a seasonal love are up to the task.
7. "What Sarah Said," Plans, 2005
The lyric "It came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time" summarizes a central theme of this record, even giving Plans its name. This six-minute song about waiting around in the emergency room is an indie rock tearjerker if there ever was one.
6. "Title and Registration," Transatlanticism, 2003
There's no chorus in this fan favorite, but there really doesn't need to be. Gibbard's been pulled over by the cops, but the pictures of a lost love he finds in the glovebox have taken precedence. He makes a pretty good case for changing the name of the place we keep the titular documents: "The glove department is inaccurately... Behind its door there's nothing to keep my fingers warm."
5. "Brothers on a Hotel Bed," Plans, 2005
This fragile piano ballad imagines Gibbard and his partner as two people who have lost their youthful passion for one another. "Now we say goodnight from our own separate sides, like brothers on a hotel bed." Hard to top that metaphor.
4. "We Looked Like Giants," Transatlanticism, 2003
This rocker best represents Death Cab's sound as a live band, and would be the best song on almost any other album. In it, Gibbard remembers skipping biology class to "learn how our bodies work" in the back of a car instead. The Jesus and Mary Chain holds the honor of being the only band mentioned by name in a Death Cab song.
3. "405," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
Death Cab's most beautiful ballad has Gibbard driving down the 405 in Washington state, a stretch of road that led him to "an alcoholic summer" and a broken relationship. "You keep twisting the truth. That keeps me thrown askew," he confesses in the delicate refrain.
2. "Title Track," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, 2000
The male character is moving too fast with his new friend in the Facts opener, which sets the scene for the rest of the record. He won't know the true consequences of sharing a cigarette and taking those trips into the guest room for a while, though. "I could taste your lipstick on the filter" -- can a lyrics be any more perfectly vivid?
1. "Transatlanticism," Transatlanticism, 2003
When Gibbard sings, "The Atlantic was born today and I'll tell you how," he's not about to give us a geology lesson. He's more concerned with how a figurative flash flood has put an ocean between him and his lover, and is trying to span that distance in song. The seven notes that Walla repeats on his guitar grow greater in intensity over the course of this epic's eight minutes -- as do Harmer's tender low end and McGerr's pounding drums -- leading to a group vocal in the climax. This consummate band effort results in the ultimate Death Cab for Cutie song.
Death Cab for Cutie. With the Antlers. 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 2 at Northrop Auditorium. Tickets.
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