16 Best Indie-ish Love Songs

It’s February and that means love is in the air. Whether you’re spending Valentines Day with a loved one, or single AF, love songs provide that cheesy sentimental touch that are sometimes just good for the soul.

16. “Archie, Marry Me” by Alvvays

Alvvays is a jangly indie pop quartet based out of Toronto. There is no album that will give you a more fuzzy feeling than their 2014 self titled release Alvvays. A highlight on the record is “Archie, Marry Me” in which singer Molly Rankin breaks gender norms in her sincere proposal to her paramour Archie.

15. “I Wanna Be Yours” by The Arctic Monkeys

There is no proclamation more clear than stating “I wanna be yours” a straight to the point sentiment that leaves no room for doubt. The lyrics comes from a poem of the same name by John Cooper Clarke. Alex Turner and company really nailed this song as the closing track on their flawless album A.M. This one will give you the feels.

14. “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings” by Sunset Rubdown

Love is weird, even chaotic sometimes. A lot of the time it doesn’t make any damn sense. And that’s what is portrayed in “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings”.  Topping out at 8 minutes, this song delicately illustrates what it’s like to feel as if you and your significant other are the only two people in the world.

13. “Popular Mechanics For Lovers” by Beulah

Listening to this song will make you feel like you’re floating on a cloud. The narrator is bitter because the love of his life is running in the arms of a man who will never love her as much as he does. The glistening pianos effortlessly glide as the synchronized harmonies will have you singing along to the morbidly sweet words of “Just because he loves you too/ He will never ever take a bullet for you.” Swoons.

12. “Baby’s Arms” by Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile is known for his ambient yet sometimes folky music, he also is known for his ability to yank your heart out.

“Baby’s Arms,” a track off of Vile’s acclaimed record Smoke Ring For My Halo, features everything which makes him great. The celestial fingerpicking, his signature drugged drawl, and reverb-y drenched plucking show his brand of melancholia that is communicated both plainly and unassumingly enough to be missed. Lyrically, it’s about finding comfort with your one, and being content in just that moment.

11. “Islands” by The XX

“Islands” is about discovering that the one you love has been in front of you the entire time and the search is over. Known for their atmospheric music, their signature moody and soulful sound compliments this duet perfectly.

10. “Blue Jeans” by Lana Del Rey

Although not your most conventional love song, “Blue Jeans” is well deserving of a spot on this list. This song features all of Lana’s signature stylistic elements we have grown to love: retro swagger, top notch production, and an overall sad girl aesthetic. Gay or straight, I think it’s everyones dream to have Lana Del Rey plead to them “I will love you until the end of time.”

9. “Happy” by Best Coast

Sometimes love is simple and “Happy” is just that. Despite the differences and fights, you can reflect and admit “you make me happy,” because you’re young and in love and it’s just that easy.

8. “Eyes” by Rogue Wave

There is nothing sweeter than “Eyes” by Rogue Wave. Its formula makes for the perfect love song. The acoustic guitar serenades us as Zach Rogue proclaims that the only thing he is missing is in her eyes. BRB, my ovaries are exploding.

7. “Say Yes” by Elliott Smith

I apologize in advance if this song rings similar to the latter. There’s something about the way an acoustic guitar pairs with sentimental lyrics.

It was tough to catch the late Elliott Smith on a good day, but it’s captured on “Say Yes”, the closing track on Either/Or. As the vocals are gently layered, we see happiness and optimism from the infamously sad singer.  In “Say Yes” we can picture Smith smiling and watching the morning sunlight fall on the hair of the girl lying next to him.

6. “I Won’t Share You” by The Smiths

Known mainly for their tales of heartbreak, angst, and remorse, The Smiths do have a few love songs in their repertoire. More famously they are known for “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “Hand in Glove” but their more obscure “I Won’t Share You” resonates with me the most. The best part about Morrissey’s lyrics is his use of ambiguity that gives the listener freedom to interpret his music as they please.

For me, “I Won’t Share You” is about finding your one, and admitting it to yourself and acknowledging that you want them all to yourself.

5. “I Found a Reason” by The Velvet Underground

Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground once said of their final  1970 album Loaded, “It showed that we could have, all along, made truly commercial sounding records. We usually opted not to…but people would wonder, ‘Could they do it if they had to?’ The answer was, ‘Yes, we could.’ And we did.” Loaded rarely got more accessible than on this song

Reminiscent of any classic 1950’s slow song with a Velvet’s twist as Lou Reed devotes “When you ain’t got nothing,” they sing in letter-perfect four part harmony, “You ain’t got nuthin’ at all” … It’s a moving and tuneful moment from a band not often regarded as being terribly melodic (though they were more often than they were thought to be)

4. “Heroes” by David Bowie

Composed by David Bowie and Brian Eno in 1977, “Heroes” is the history of the secret love affair between Tony Visconti (co-producer of the album) and backing vocalist Antonia Maaß in Berlin.

How lovers can be heroes just for one day, whether they stay together or not. No matter what happens, if their love is true, it will be alive forever, even if they are separated by the Berlin Wall and bullets are flying over their heads.

3. “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” by Talking Heads

David Byrne just gets it. Anyone who has ever felt genuine love have been here before, and that’s why “This Must Be The Place” resonates with anyone who has ever listened to it. This songs vulnerability paired with the breeziness of the keyboard brings a sense of sweet and unadulterated comfort. It’s about happiness and the blissful confusion that love creates.

David Byrne once said “I don’t think I’ve ever done a real love song before. Mine always had a sort of reservation, or a twist. I tried to write one that wasn’t corny, that didn’t sound stupid or lame the way many do. I think I succeeded; I was pretty happy with that.” And yes, so are we.

2. “Brand New Colony” by The Postal Service

The Postal Service is the combination of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and DNTEL’s Jimmy Tamborello, although they have only released one album 14 years ago, The Postal Service will always be one of my favorite bands.

Gibbards lyrics are written with a sense of self reflection and delicacy that truly makes him a master of his craft. He approaches this love song in a nonconventional form of metaphors, he wants to become all of these metaphysical objects (a bottle of wine, a record player, a fleece jacket) because of the important purpose they serve to her. 

He talks about all of these complicated things, but in the end he reveals what he really wants: to kiss her on the mouth, run away from the cynics of their town, and start a brand new colony.

1. “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys

“God Only Knows” is one of those shimmeringly perfect love songs. This song makes you feel sad, in love, grateful, and hopeless all at the same time.

Appearing on The Beach Boys’ 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds, the song opens in a haze of french horns and harpsichord. It marries baroque and West Coast pop, combines multi-tracked layered vocals, a cellist, flautist, and an accordionist. Brian wilson once described the song as “a vision … It’s like being blind, but in being blind, you can see more. You close your eyes; you’re able to see a place or something that’s happening.”

Considering the fact that it’s a song about devotion, it’s opening line “I may not always love you,” is the cloud of uncertainty that makes “God Only Knows” truly extraordinary. Because it isn’t just a love song, it recognizes the fact that falling in love is terrifying and that you have to go into it blindly, but in that blindness you can see who you are because of someone else.

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Cherry Glazerr – Apocalipstick

2017 has already been a whirlwind, which is what makes Cherry Glazerr’s appropriately titled Apocalipstick more relevant than ever. In this day and age what we need is simple: good rock music.

Four years ago Los Angeles rock outfit Cherry Glazerr began with then 15-year-old singer/guitarist Clementine Creevy, Hannah Uribe, and Sean Redman. But in their short duration they have faced personnel changes and the trio is now backed by Tabor Allen and Sasami Ashwort. Despite the new transition, Cherry Glazerr effortlessly shines in their sophomore album.

Their debut record Haxel Princess was a lighthearted and unhindered view of juvenile dispatches. While promising, it never managed to hit the surface, lacking the confidence that Creevy possesses today. Creevy, who is now 19, is a grown up reflection of fierceness and fearlessness in her music.

In Apocalipstick the trio have presented us with their most glistening recordings yet. Full of furious howls, jangling distortions, sick riffs, and swaggerous girl power all packed into 34 glorious minutes. It may not be their first album, but feels like their first proper album.

Opener “Told You I’d Be With the Guys” features all of the staple Cherry Glazzer sounds we’ve known to love. Creevy’s fluent howling behind a groovy guitar riff that builds into a solidified rock n’ roll  anthem. Let’s not get it twisted though, they are not one trick ponies.

In the mellowest track off Apocalipstick “Nuclear Bomb” Creevy delicately repeats “All the souls are swimming in the bathtub,” in a cry for validation, with the sounds of an acoustic guitar and a bubbly synth beaming in the background. “Trash People” expresses unbridling millennial self awareness where Creevy admits her room smells like an ashtray and she wears her underpants three days in a row.

Other highlights include “Instagratification” surf guitar nostalgia and the re-recordings of fan favorites “Nurse Ratched” and “Sip O’ Poison”.

Apocalipstick is fun, unpretentious, and refreshing rock n’ roll.

B+

 

Listen to Arcade Fire’s newest single “I Give You Power”

It’s been four long years since we’ve seen new music from the beloved Arcade Fire. This week the band returns with “I Give You Power,” a collaboration with gospel legend Mavis Staples.

The track itself implements a menacing disco beat with a slightly dark edge. They explore cloudy territory as the synths cast a shadow over the ominous undertones the song presents. Mavis Staples empowering vocals add an extra layer that entices the tune.

Released on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, there’s no doubt that the song has political implications. When the band shared the track, they attached a brief statement: “It’s never been more important that we stick together & take care of each other.”

All proceeds will benefit ACLU.org
Listen below!

Foxygen – Hang

If The Beatles classic concept album Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Meatloaf’s pinnacle rock opera Bat Out of Hell made a love child, you’d have Foxygen’s fourth studio release Hang.

The groovy L.A. based duo comprising of Jonathan Rado and Sam France have once again reinvented their sound, but their style remains the same. Their 2013 release We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic propelled them into the limelight. It was fresh, spirited, frenetic and unlike anything else. Their follow-up …And Star Power (2014) was less impressive as a forgettable 24-song chronicle of a band at war with itself.

In Hang, Foxygen takes a different direction. Having assembled a 40 piece orchestra, Foxygen considers Hang to be their “first proper studio album.” Album opener “Follow the Leader” thrusts the record into full swing with bombastic horns, groovy keyboards, 1960’s bubblegum female backup vocals, and France’s gyrating shrieks.

France’s vocal diversity in Hang is prevalent as he effortlessly switches his inflections from Mick Jagger (“Rise Up”), David Bowie (“Mrs. Adams”), and Lou Reed (“Upon a Hill”).

Hang reaches it’s peak with album highlight “On Lankershim.” It is reminiscent of the 1970’s folky sounds of a.m. radio. The ballad “Trauma” is as smooth as it is carefully arranged symphonic pop. “Avalon” and “Upon a Hill” evoke imagery of the vaudeville camp you’d see on the Broadway stage.

Hang is grandiose, flamboyant, and ostentatious. But underneath the high concept, little substance is present. It’s all body and no soul. It’s an album I would pay good money to see in all of it’s cosmic glory live, but it’s not an album that I would come back to for regular listens.

Hang: C+

Our Top 25 Songs of 2016

25. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam Batmanglij | I Had a Dream That You Were Mine |  “The Morning Stars”

24. Lucy Dacus | No Burden | “I Don’t Wanna be Funny Anymore”

23. Drake feat. Kyla & Wizkid | Views | One Dance

22. Beyoncé | Lemonade | “All Night”

21. Car Seat Headrest | Teens of Denial | “Fill in the Blank”

20. Solange feat. Sampha | A Seat at the Table | “Don’t Touch My Hair”

19. Frank Ocean | Blonde | “Nikes”

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18. Frank Ocean | Blonde | “Ivy”

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17. Big Thief | Masterpiece | “Masterpiece”

16. ScHoolboy Q feat. Kanye West | Blank Face | “THat Part”

15. Leonard Cohen | You Want It Darker | “Treaty”

14. YG featuring Nipsey Hussle | Still Brazy | “FDT”

13. Bon Iver | 22, A Million |”33 ‘GOD'”

12. Angel Olsen | MY WOMAN | “Woman”

11. Solange | A Seat at the Table | “Cranes in the Sky”

10. A Tribe Called Quest | We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service | “We the People…”

9. Frank Ocean | Blonde | “Nights”

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8. Whitney | Light Upon the Lake | “No Woman”

7. Mitski | Puberty 2 | “Your Best American Girl”

6. Angel Olsen | MY WOMAN | “Shut Up Kiss Me”

5. Kanye West feat. Kid Cudi | The Life of Pablo | “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”

4. Beyoncé | Lemonade | “Formation”

3. Radiohead | A Moon Shaped Pool | “Daydreaming”

2. David Bowie | Blackstar | “Lazarus”

 1. Kanye West feat. Chance the Rapper, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Kirk Franklin | The Life of Pablo | “Ultralight Beams”

10 Songs About Jennifer

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Jennifer, a popular female name originating from the Cornish name Guinevere. The name translates into “white enchantress,” or “the fair one,” which for me personally rings accurate because I am about as pasty as it gets.

“Jennifer” hit its peak in the 1970’s as the top female baby name in the U.S. for 14 years straight. With that being said, it’s no surprise why there have been so many songs inspired about girls named Jennifer.

Without further or do, here is an assortment of songs I’ve collected over the years with Jennifer in mind.

And no, this list does not include “867-5309 (Jenny)” you savages.

10. “Jennifer Juniper” by Donovan

Although I have no evidence to back this up, I am a firm believer that “Jennifer Juniper” is the first song dedicated to a girl named Jennifer. Released in 1968 the song peaked at number 5 in the UK Singles Chart.

Hailing from Scotland, the singer, songwriter and guitarist Donovan had a distinct style that combined jazz, pop, psychedelic, and world music. “Jennifer Juniper” is a delicate folk ditty that you can still hear on the classic radio station daily. And I think it’s safe to say that all Jennifer’s have had someone sing them this song at one point.

Fun fact: This song was inspired by George Harrison’s then-sister-in-law, Jennifer Boyd who later married Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac.

9. “Jenny” by Electric Guest

I love me some Electric Guest. Their debut album Mondo, produced by Danger Mouse, was released in 2012 and was easily one of the best records of the year.

The Los Angeles based quartet’s soulful mix of funk and synth pop is perfectly captured in “Jenny”. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

8. “Jenny, You’re Barely Alive” by Rilo Kiley

For those of you not familiar with the early 200o’s indie rock band Rilo Kiley, Jenny is the name of the lead singer/ultimate dream babe Jenny Lewis.

The song is a self help letter written in the second person perspective. The lo-fi vocals and distorted guitars are an arrangement that frays away from Rilo Kileys usual pop sound. A technique purposely used to match the lyrical desperation of this track.

“Jenny You’re Barely Alive” is about a girl who is lost and can’t seem to get it right. Something we’ve all felt at one point.

7. “Amy + Jen” by The Spinto Band

The Spinto Band is a six piece indie rock band formed in 1996. I listened to them quite a bit when their album Nice and Nicely Done came out in 2006. Their music is an upbeat mix of pop, folk with neurotic hook packed choruses.

“Amy + Jen” is a delirious and tightly arranged highlight off their 2013 record Cool Cocoon. Reminiscent of something you’d hear in a modern disco, the dreamy guitar solos, accompanied pouncing keyboard, this is a song that will make all Jens (and Amys) proud.

6. “Jenny and the Summer Day” by The Avett Brothers

What’s up with folk bands infatuation with girls named Jenny?

“Jenny on a Summer Day” is a cute love song about a summer love during adolescence. It makes you want to sit under a shady tree in the middle of July and drink lemonade while listening to the banjo plucking and piano keys ringing.

The Avett brothers are an American folk rock band from North Carolina, and they are made up of, well, two brothers. Their style combines bluegrass, country, punk, folk, ragtime, and country.

5. “Jennifer” by Faust

Faust is a German experimental rock band formed in 1971. Despite the songs nearly 5 minute time stamp, lyrically the song only repeats the same lines: “Jennifer, your red hair’s burning. Yellow jokes come out of your mind,” which to be honest, I have no idea what that means.

But the timeless lo-fi style and arrangement trump the incoherent lyrics.

4. “Jenny Don’t be Hasty” by Paulo Nutini

Scottish singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini is a heavy hitter in the UK. Always at the top of the music charts, even reaching certified platinum. In June 2014 the BBC titled him as “Scotland’s biggest musician.” Although he’s reached a modicum of success in the U.S. it does not come close to his triumphs in the UK.

“Jenny Don’t be Hasty” is the second single from Nutini’s debut album These Streets. His soulful husky vocals and lyrical wisdom make it hard to imagine they belonged to a then 19-year-old.

3. “Jen is Bringin the Drugs” by Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s

Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s was one of my favorite bands in high school. They’re named after Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Margot from the cult classic Wes Anderson film “The Royal Tenenbaums”

Hailing from Indianapolis, their music style is described as “cinematic chamber pop,” over the years their sound has evolved from an orchestral sound to guitar rock.

Lyrically, they’ve always touched on topics such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and being impoverished. So it’s no surprise that “Jen is Bringing the Drugs” fits the same narrative.

Listen for yourself, I think everyone know’s a girl like the Jen described in this song.

2. “Jennifer” by Little Comets

Little Comets are an English indie rock trio. Despite being a band for almost a decade, I only ever got into their 2013 album Life is Elsewhere. It consisted of cute indie rock ditties that make you want to tap your feet.

“Jennifer” is the first single off Life is Elswhere. In the chorus, the singer asks “Jennifer, why do you have to be so taciturn?” And my answer is because Jennifer’s are awkward AF.

Jangly guitars, upbeat rhythms and singer Robert Cole’s high falsetto is a combination does not make this the kind of music you’d listen to when you’re looking to stare at the ceiling and reflect on life. But sometimes, we just need to dance.

1.  “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” by The Killers

As a Las Vegas native, nothing reminds me of home more than The Killers debut album Hot Fuss. The opening track “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” is the ultimate introduction to The Killers. It was the perfect start for the band to let us listeners know what we were in for.

The groovy bass line, the hypnotic synths, and the memorable chorus will still make people sing in stadiums across the world, despite this song being over a decade old. Although I hate it when people call me Jenny, when people sing this song to me, it’s the only exception.

12 Songs for Each Kind of Breakup

Because music will always be there for you.

12. The resilient breakup song: “You Have Killed Me” by Morrissey

Kicking the list off with Mr. Misery himself, Morrissey. He has a song for every kind of heartbreak: unrequited love, loneliness, revenge, remorse, and accepting the inevitable.

“You Have Killed Me” is a straight forward breakup track about when you’ve been hurt so badly you feel as if you’ve been stabbed through the heart, but somehow you still find a way to walk around and continue with on.

Relatable lyric: As I live and breathe/You have killed me/Yet I walk around somehow/But you have killed me

11. The ‘stuck in denial’ breakup song: “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” by The Magnetic Fields

69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields is an album that consists of, well, 69 love songs. Some of the tracks are romantic, others sweet, and many endearing. Then there are songs about heartbreak, including this gem.

Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt’s sweet realism and honesty portrays the fragility of a recently ended communion.

Relatable lyric: I could leave this agony behind/ Which is just what I’d do/ If I wanted to/ But I don’t want to get over you

10. The apologetic breakup song: “So Sorry” by Fiest

When you’ve been the destructive one in the relationship, driving the other person away. The realizations of your actions are too late. You plead for things to be better and admit your faults. When you’re willing to try to make things work out “forreal, this time,” that’s what this song is about.

Leslie Feist’s delicate voice and sincerest admissions on this track portray someone who is genuinely regretful.

Relatable lyric: Two words I always think/ Oh after you’ve gone/ When I realize I was acting all wrong

9. The intoxicated breakup song: “The Poison” by Pedro the Lion

David Bazan of Pedro the Lion creates imagery with his lyrics that personify his dilemmas.”The Poison” is about the coping mechanism of drinking after the relationship ends, and the result is relatably chilling.

Relatable lyric: But now it’s over/ and I can’t stay sober

8. The jaded breakup song: “Landfill” by Daughter

Ever been with somebody who neglected you? Someone who mistreated you? inconsiderate? Selfish? Well, this one is for you.

Relatable lyric: Leave me at the altar/ Knowing all the things you just escaped

7. The ‘fed up’ break up song: “No Children” by The Mountain Goats

For when you’re feeling trapped, and when you’re so far down in the hole that you’ll never get out. You continue on for some reason, but it keeps getting worse until the resentment festers to the point of disrepair. And the feelings are mutual.

Relatable lyric: And I’d hope that if I found the strength to walk out/ You’d stay the hell out of my way

6. The revenge breakup song: “For What Reason” by Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie are known for writing a good song about heartbreak. Lyricist Ben Gibbard has always had a knack for writing about the things you were never able to put into words.

“For What Reason” is the bloodthirsty revenge breakup song. The good memories are gone and have been replaced with cynicism and resentment. The deceit you encountered make the relationship irreparable.

Relatable lyric: Brace yourself: I’m bent with bitterness. I can’t foresee.

5. The ‘I still can’t live without you’ breakup: “The Spells” by Mrs. Magician

The catchy melody will trick you, but this is not a happy song. This track is about how difficult it is to deal with the aftermath of the breakup. When you physically feel sick and you can’t imagine your life without that person.

Relatable lyric: Prescribe me some pills to mend my heart/Or to stop it completely

4. The ‘fuck you’ breakup song: “Super Rat” by Honeyblood

Basically, fuck you. You deserved this.

Relatable lyric: And I knew you were bad all along/But still I swam in to welcoming jaws

3. The breakup song about acceptance: “Your Ex Lover is Dead” by Stars

When you give yourself to someone, and you have nothing left to say. The relationship can’t be saved. You acknowledge that there was a thing in the past that didn’t work out. You’re not the same person you used to be.

Relatable lyric: There’s one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave/You were what I wanted/I gave what I gave/I’m not sorry I met you/I’m not sorry it’s over/I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save

2. The unavoidable breakup song: “Apart” by The Cure

When your feelings evaporate and you begin to drift apart. Each person in the relationship wish the other one would do something, or say what they desperately want to hear, but they don’t say anything. Instead you wait and hope it happens, but it never does. Your love is gone, and you haven’t bridged the gap.

Relatable lyric: How did we get this far apart?/I thought this love would last forever

1. The gratified breakup song: “Better Off Without You” by Summer Camp

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. You were proactive and realized that breakups happen for a reason, and you know that everything is going to be okay.

Relatable lyric: I used to miss you all the time/ But now I think you’re not so fine

The Best and Worst of Death Cab for Cutie

I was 12 years old when I heard Death Cab for Cutie for the first time. Soon they became my band. They were the first concert I ever went to on my own, I would write Death Cab lyrics on my notebooks, and had an inappropriate obsession with Ben Gibbard.

It’s been over 10 years and many bands have come in and out of my life, but I’ll always have a soft spot for my first band,  Death Cab for Cutie.

8. Codes and Keys

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Even the most casual Death Cab for Cutie listener will know that the band thrives when it comes to heartbreak. Codes and Keys was released in the midst of Gibbard’s now defunct marriage to quirky “it girl,” actress Zooey Deschanel. Codes and Keys results as a collection of 11 lackluster and overly sentimental tracks about being in love and finding yourself.

Codes and Keys opens with “Home is a Fire” – a song that has potential but never builds up and hits a stalemate. A well-fitting theme for the rest of the album. The title track “Codes and Keys” shines with it’s backing orchestra, and protruding drum lines, as Gibbard gently sings “we are alive” in the chorus. The high point came and went by the second track.

A series of snooze fest’s come and go, while “Doors Unlocked and Open” teases us with interesting instrumentation and a solid chorus. This preceding arguably one of the most overrated Death Cab songs of all time “You are a Tourist.” Piano ballad “Unobstructed Views” appears as a failed attempt to recapture the beauty of their 2004 hit “Transatlanticsm”

The closing track “Stay Young, Go Dancing” was clearly inspired by his newlywed Deschanel. It’s overly affectionate lyrical content, reeking of sunshine, is entirely skippable.

Death Cab for Cutie are known for their guitar heavy compositions, and they departure that theme with Codes and Keys. While I admire them for focusing on keyboards and a string section, Codes and Keys just could not get it right.

Best Track: Codes and Keys

Worst Track: You are a Tourist

7. Narrow Stairs

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If Codes and Keys was Death Cab’s love album, this one was their version of Pablo Picasso’s Black Period.  Gibbard has later admitted that there’s a level of “self-loathing” in Narrow Stairs and that he’s a bit “embarrassed” of it now.

The opening track “Bixby Canyon Bridge” starts off with guitarist Chris Walla’s tremolo picking technique, while Gibbard vulnerably sings about his time at a cabin in Big Sur, California. The location not only in which this album was recorded recorded, but incoincidently  the location of Gibbard’s biggest literary influence once lived, Jack Kerouac.

“Your New Twin Sized Bed” and Beatles knock-off “You Can Do Better Than Me” are perfect examples of the emotional torture Gibbard felt at this time period in his life. They are songs about defeat yet coming to terms with the state of things.

Narrow Stairs is all over the place. The first single “I Will Possess Your Heart” is reminiscent of a 1970’s  jam band, while “Talking Bird” is a sweet throwback to a song you’d hear at a 1950’s prom.  “Cath” feeling like a 1990’s power pop band, Narrow Stairs can’t quite find it’s identity.

Best track: Bixby Canyon Bridge

Worst track: Pity and Fear

6. Kintsugi

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Sometimes love disappears without explanation and this is the case Gibbard poses in what I like to call Death Cab for Cutie’s “divorce album” Kintsugi. 

Kintsugi is Death Cab for Cutie’s most recent release, after 4 long years of nothing. A lot happened in that time, Ben Gibbard  went on a reunion tour with his iconic band The Postal Service, founding guitarist and producer Chris Walla left the band to pursue other musical projects, Gibbard released a solo album, bassist Nick Harmer became a father, and of course: The Divorce.

“How could something so fair be so cruel?” Gibbard asks in the chorus of “Black Sun,” the first single off Kintsugi. A question posed clearer than daylight. While the album opener “No Room in Frame” deceptive melodic jangling will trick you into thinking it’s a happy song, lyrically, it will break your heart.

“Kintsugi”is a Japanese art form that consists of repairing broken pottery and creating something new from it, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. “Little Wanderer” stands out as it’s airy guitar swoops you into the woes of a long distance relationship, whilst Gibbard sips some tea in “Ingenue,” a track about a young actress whose brightest years are behind her.

Overall, Kintsugi’s intimacy and vulnerability save it from the lackluster and uninspiring arrangements.

Best track: No Room in Frame

Worst track: Hold No Guns

5. Plans

In 2004 indie darlings Death Cab for Cutie did the unfathomable: they left their longtime independent record label Barsuk, and signed to the major label Atlantic Records.

The controversial move ignited outrage with their hardcore fan base. They were called sellouts and some purists event decided to boycott the band entirely. Death Cab achieved their first main stream success with their previous music release Transatlanticism, and the record offers flew in. Death Cab stated the major label would still give them creative freedom and they encouraged fans to download their music for free online to discourage the corporate economics of a major label.

Despite Death Cab claiming “they would not change” after their record label move, Plans, was definitely different than their previous work – but that was not necessarily a bad thing.

Plans is a collection of finely polished, easily palatable, radio friendly tunes. Opener “Marching Bands of Manhattan” understated guitar work paired with Gibbard’s vulnerability prove to be effective.

Piano heavy tracks such as “Differen’t Names for the Same Thing,” “Brothers on a Hotel Bed,” and “What Sarah Said” are beautifully cohesive and imaginative.  The groovy bassline of “Summer Skin” lingers as Gibbard reminisces of his adolescence.

The best thing about Plans is that there is a song for everyone. Death Cab will be eternally forced to play “Crooked Teeth,” “Soul Meets Body,” and “I’ll Follow you Into the Dark” for the rest of their musical careers due to their popularity. Yet, these are the songs that are the most unauthentically Death Cab.

Best track: Marching Bands of Manhattan

Worst track: Crooked Teeth

4. Something About Airplanes

Death Cab for Cutie were in their early 20’s when their debut record Something About Airplanes was released. Despite their young age, this album was years ahead of it’s time. Clearly influenced with a “Pacific Northwest Sound” like bands Modest Mouse and Sleater-Kinney before them, Something About Airplanes has a distinct influence, but is unique enough to stand on it’s own.

Something About Airplanes grittiness and lo-fi vibes set the precedent for what’s to come in their later musical achievements. Gibbard’s soft voice is complimentary coupled with the distorted guitars blaring in tracks like “Bend to Squares” and “Fake Frowns.”

Although they have strayed for glossier and more radio palatable sound in recent years, Something About Airplanes demonstrates where the band originated and how far they’ve come.

Best track: President of What?

Worst track: Sleep Spent

3. Transatlanticism

Every true Death Cab for Cutie fan will always have a soft spot for this modern day classic. Transatlanticsm is what catapulted them into the mainstream vernacular and for good reason.

It’s fitting that this album begins with a track called “The New Year” considering this record is the one that brought Death Cab their new era of fans, thanks to Seth Cohen of “The O.C.” and MySpace.com.

Ben Gibbard will always be a story teller first and a songwriter second and that has never been clearer than the narratives that unfold in Transatlanticism.  “Title and Registration” is a perfect example as Gibbard eloquently relates a traffic stop to an old relationship. The hypnotic guitar riff and simplistic drum track are imperative highlights to this record.

The title track “Transatlanticsm” is an eight minute long masterpiece, as Gibbard declares “I need you so much closer to his long distance paramour. While “Tiny Vessels” tells an opposite story in which he is pretty much being an asshole to the subject.

Transatlicism’s diversity makes this an easy listen every time. “We Looked Like Giants” long instrumental give’s the record some needed grittiness, whilst “A Lack of Color” is simple and bare. It’s all we need.

Best track: Title and Registration

Worst track: Expo ’86

2. The Photo Album

The Photo Album is Death Cab for Cutie’s third studio album. By this time, they have grown as a band, they’ve carved out their quintessential sound, and they’re not going anywhere.

What makes Death Cab unique is their ability to juxtapose catchy melodies with morose lyrical content and The Photo Album makes no exception. This album is progressive and guitar heavy yet it still contains sweet elements.

“I loved you Guinevere,” Gibbard proclaims breakup song “We Laugh Indoors,” as the distorted guitars and cloudy microphones. In “Why’d You Want to Live Here,” the band begrudgingly visits Los Angeles and describes it’s flaws. Gibbard revisits the topic of Los Angeles in “Ghost of Beverley Drive” on their 2015 album Kintsugi.

The Photo Album is a quintessential road trip album. From the opening track, to it’s romantic closer “Cony Island.” It’s an album you want to pop into the CD player with nothing but the road ahead of you.

Best track: A Movie Script Ending

Worst track: Information Travels Faster

1. We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes

There are many milestones that come along with growing older. You grow apart from old friends, everyone you know starts to get married and have kids, and there’s the first big break up. And that’s what We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes is about.

The album opener “Title Track,” a nostalgic song about questionable decisions and wish fulfillment. Gibbard runs into an old acquaintance at a party and a one night stand ensues. The song starts off distorted and far off but after the first verse, it clears up. A production choice that seems fitting.

Throughout We Have the Facts.. Gibbard is in pursuance of a relationship with the woman from song one. By the second track, “Employment Pages,” they have settled in a quaint relationship and the mundanities of everyday life. In “For What Reason” Gibbard finds out she cheated on him. “This will be the last you hear from me.” he threatens as the guitars jangle in this bloodthirsty song about heartbreak and revenge.

Up next? Gibbard hits the road in “Lowell, MA” AND “405,” Another reference to Jack Kerouac.

The highlight of We Have the Facts hits during “Company Calls” and “Company Calls Epilogue.” In the first of the series, Gibbard receives an invitation to his ex-flames wedding. By the “Epilogue” he crashes the wedding, a reference to another huge influence of Ben Gibbards, “The Graduate.”

“Company Calls Epilogue” is arguably the best song in Death Cab for Cutie’s catalogue. It’s vulnerable and Gibbard’s angst is relatable. During the last chorus, Gibbard is left alone with an acoustic guitar. It’s naked and will give you all the feels.

We Have the Facts is everything album needs to be. It’s versatile, unique, and has a story to tell. Which is what Death Cab for Cutie does best.

Best track: Company Calls Epilogue