Happy New Year! Here are some videos that just “get it”

  • Ring in the New Year with Rilo Kiley’s “Glendora,” a classic song from their The Initial Friend EP (2000).


  • Death Cab for Cutie captures the eventual disappointment of New Years “newness” with their song “The New Year.”


  • Hardcore/emo band Thursday has a different take on New Years Eve with “Jet Black New Year.” Man, that song is just so early-2000s.

I Need You So Much Closer: Transaltanticism, an appreciation

<DCFC Transaltanticism>

Death Cab for Cutie “Transaltantism” (2003, Barsuk Records)

Being a teenager was tough. A little chubby and a little awkward, I desperately wanted to be part of something. Sure, there were friends, pool halls, and school clubs, but I wanted more. I wanted to belong. I eventually found music as a way to connect with others. For hours, I talked about my favorite bands to anyone who would listen. I joined message boards and MySpace and would search for all the latest news. I went to shows and talked to other fans. I wore my band t-shirts with pride. My messenger bag was decorated with small-round pins, likely purchased at Hot Topic or Warped Tour.  Armed with a discman, I’d stroll through the high school halls, listening beloved songs by Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, The Starting Line, Bright Eyes, and other bands long forgotten.

And then there was Death Cab for Cutie. The year was 2003, I was 17, and they were my favorite band. Transaltanticism was my favorite album.

This band (and specifically that album) captured what it was like be an introspective youth, eager to move into adulthood but unsure how to act or what to say.

As I made the decision to leave home and go to college out of state, I was suddenly without my safety net of childhood friends. I found solace in these lyrics and in this band.

Every New Years Eve, I’d copy the lyrics to the album’s opening track, “The New Year,” into a AIM Away Message (or later, Facebook Status) with the hopes that the upcoming year might be different. More often than not, it wasn’t. All the inspirational New Year’s resolutions was lost on my over-thinking, over-analyzing teenage (and early 20s) mind.

There was “The Sound of Settling.” How could a song about low expectations be so upbeat?! Hopeful and hopeless, I’d write lyrics like “I’ll sit and wonder/ of every love that could’ve been/ if I’d only thought of something charming to say,” on my binders and notebooks, all the while looking for that first love.

“Passenger Seat” made me yearn for an experience: the open-road car trip with windows down and not a care in the world. “I strain my eyes/ and try to tell the difference between shooting stars and satellites…/Do they collide?/I ask and you smile.” I wanted that feeling.

In “A Lack of Color,” there was quiet elegance. With power and strength, the lyrics spoke to sadness of a breakup. “I’m reaching for the phone to call at 7:03 and on your machine/ I slur a plea for you to come home./ But I know it’s too late, and I should have given you a reason to stay.” Sometimes even one’s most sincere effort is not enough to fix everything.

“We Looked Like Giants” was an example of how Death Cab could rock. But the song explored the theme of thinking that you love someone more than anyone else ever will. It is a secretive love; it is the kind of love you skip classes for.

In “Tiny Vessels,” an nod to hickeys, Gibbard sings of desiring more. “So one last touch and then you’ll go/ And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more/ But it was vile, and it was cheap/ And you are beautiful, but you don’t mean a thing to me.” Whether or not one may want to admit it, this type of experience is typical of the college culture. Cheap booze and house parties often lead to more than one tawdry encounter (and accidental hickey).

Overall, it is a lyrics-heavy album that makes you feel so many things. There are themes of regret, disappointment, change, stagnation, meaningful relationships, and missed connections.

It’s 11 songs proclaiming “You’re not alone. I’ve felt the same way. You’ll be OK.”

Now at age 27, I still listen to this album. I think back on feeling unsure of myself. I think back on all of the false starts and wasted opportunities. The album captures that fine line between hope and hopelessness. In some songs, love is experienced while in other songs, love is fleeting. Either way, love is something to desire.

Maybe things have changed. Maybe things stayed the same. But all I know is that without this album, I might just be another inarticulate mess, too reflective for my own good.

Either way, I’ve still “got a hunger, twisting my stomach into knots”

Bah baaaah..bah baaaah.

+ + +

Death Cab For Cutie’s Transaltanticism came out 10 years ago.

Barsuk Records recently resissued the album on vinyl.

For more information, click here.

Five Fantastic Songs for Fun-Filled Friday

So why is this week different from all other weeks?  Well, yes, it is Passover (and during this week we only eat unleavened bread, etc).  But that was not what I was referring to.  The true difference between this week and others is that this week my music listening has been dominated by a small pool of artists, some new and some older.  As a result, I am going to list my favorite tracks this week.  Enjoy!  

1. Matt Pond PA “Halloween” mp3
Okay. I might be kind of late on the MPPA train (woo woo).  I’ve listened to “Halloween” over 14 times in the past week. This song is the opener of “Several Arrows Later” and in many ways it is the perfect starting point for a spectacular album. From the beginning, something about this song screams uncertainity and anxiety.  The piano along with Matt Pond’s voice lends itself to a romantic yet realistic mood, with dimmed lights and whispering closely.  The chorus is one of the strongest parts of the song: “Pardon the intrusion/ Could we leave before it gets bad?” It is personal yet general and perfect.  It is the perfect starting point for anyone who wants to get into Matt Pond PA.

2. Death Cab for Cutie “A Diamond and A Tether” mp3
One thing that DCFC does so well is write introspective tunes.  This one, from their new release, “The Open Door EP,” is one of the best I’ve heard in a while.  As Gibbard sings,”I make the same mistakes at each familiar turn,” the listener believes him.  He goes on to spin the tale of someone with serious commitment issues who is perfectly satisfied with being alone.  At the same time, he is not alone but always gazing around to see what else is out there.   He makes “empty promises” and “countless bluffs.”  This song, lyrically and musically, seems like  a throwback to old-school Death Cab and I like it.    

3. Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band “Slowly (Oh So Slowly)” mp3
It is no secret that I love just about everything Conor Oberst does. With the latest album”Outer South” (which will be released on May 5, 2009), is a collective effort by the Mystic Valley Band.  The opening guitar riffs “Slowly” feature a big band sound similar to the one found on “Four Winds” (from 2007’s “Cassadaga” record). This opening track starts off with an incredibly profound yet simple lyric: “Potential, well you’re a loaded line.” The song has a lot of the same themes from “Cassadaga” but goes steps further to claim the necessity of a vacation from life.  

4. The Gaslight Anthem “The Navesink Banks” mp3
On April 24th, I went to see Gaslight at Webster Hall. I had only seen Brian Fallon solo at the Court Tavern in New Jersey and really did not know what to expect. What I came to notice was that the concert was much like the pop-punk shows of yesteryear. There were kids moshing, fist pumping and the like. I hadn’t been to a show like that in years. It sure was something.

Anyways, in the days leading up to the show, I reviewed their discography and found myself instantly drawn to “The Navesink Banks.” This acoustic gem, off of “Sink or Swim,” is one of those songs that derive directly from a singular situation or experience: growing up in New Jersey. (Navesink is an actual location in Jersey).  This retrospective song talks about childhood and teenage mistakes that were made.  For example, contained in the lyrics are three lines that talk about “sins” in judgement made during the younger years. Although, as always, Fallon has a positive outlook and has learned from those situations to a full extent.  

5. Bishop Allen “The Chinatown Bus” mp3
For me, Bishop Allen is a newish discovery, even though I heard them on KEXP in 2007.  Bishop Allen, from Brooklyn, is one of those bands with great lyrical and musical talent. And I love bands that refernece the place that they are from (like the Hold Steady does in all of their songs).  From 2007’s “This Broken String,” this song is fully laden with New York references.  It takes about going up the I-95 on the Chinatown bus after New Years Day.  It takes of taxi cabs and being a passenger, watching the world go by. The quiet vocals and guitars along with the trumpets and tambourines create a dreamy and calm mood.          

On a related note, they will be playing at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, with The Dodos, Vivian Girls, John Vanderslice, and more (which takes place June 11-14).