You never forget your first. Your first band, that is. My first was a demure four piece hailing from rainy Washington, the babylon of millennium indie, a modest and unassuming band named Death Cab for Cutie. It was a story for the ages, a doe eyed 13 year old and a particularly controversial new FOX tv show about rich Californians and two outcasts that lived among them. I can write an entire thesis on how the birth of the modern hipster began with that single television show. Josh Schwartz may be obsessed with petty soap drama plot tropes but god damn does he know how to soundtrack a show. And it’s probably the reason why in 2006, Death Cab signed on to Atlantic and made the monumental, near perfect, PLANS. After that, it kind of dropped off for me. The band moved towards a more sonic direction and, in my opinion, suffered for it. As they expanded their sound, the songs themselves become much more hallow. Song like ‘I Will Posess Your Heart‘ just sounded like a shittier reworking of their past hits, in this case ‘We Looked Like Giants‘. I can honestly say that I haven’t really listened to the band’s last two records as Narrow Stairs was such an awful departure from the band’s core aesthetics.
And as the years went by, Ben Gibbard himself also did. He got skinny, he got this dumb haircut, and he married Zooey Deschanel. But then he got divorced. And started to not looks so dumb again. And then he released a solo album. And it felt almost like checking up on an ex when I first gave his new solo LP a listen. Gibbard’s new solo effort Former Lives is refreshing to say the least. Or maybe that’s not the right word. I use the word refreshing because he’s sounding like his old self again. A lot of the songs are very reminiscent of the older cannon of Gibbard’s work, in the vein of the Home EP he did with Andrew Kenny and the ‘The Photo Album era’. Self proclaimed as a ‘side story album’, its a mishmash of a bunch of songs he’s held on from 8 years of touring, getting sober, getting married, getting divorced, and basically songs that didn’t make it on any Death Cab album. To me, it sounds like the man moved to a farm and refound his melodic sensibilities and made an album of closure. And that’s okay. Now this album isn’t a home run. It’s not a game changer. It’s just an album that’s incredibly enjoyable to listen to. Put it on while you mow the lawn. Put it on when you’re thinking about an old love. Just put it on.