I’m probably not the only person that has developed mixed feelings over Ben Gibbard’s first solo album Former Lives. Don’t get me wrong–I think the album is worth every penny, and also worth the (in my case emotional) wait¹. But there’s something a little off about it. I mean, obviously it isn’t like anything Death Cab has ever done, though he’s the one that writes the songs. If he’d wanted it to be like Death Cab’s stuff, he wouldn’t have gone solo, right? But some of the songs don’t quite feel Gibbard-y. Not like The Postal Service’s stuff, or like Death Cab’s stuff, which has always felt intensely personal, even when they weren’t meant to. I mean, listening to Something About Airplanes is so laden with… college-boy angst. It reminds me of John Green’s first novel, Looking For Alaska. And “Title and Registration” on Transatlanticism is just… so poignant and relate-able even if its not a cop that pulls you over asking for the some legal documents, only to unleash a barrage of memories of a former lover who deserted you. It’s always reminded me of people I’m not friends with anymore. And like all the stuff you amass during that time that you’re friends with them that means something to you. I always ask myself what the heck do I do with this? throw it out? I never do. Comparatively, none of the songs on Former Lives really inspire any zeal. None of them really make you want to cry your eyes out, or laugh your troubles away (yes, laughing is very cathartic. Especially when Monday Morningis on. It is simply beautiful).
However, there are some GREAT songs, such as “Lady Adelaide”, which reminds me of DCFC’s “What Sarah Said” on Plans, although the melody is a lot happier; the story runs along the same lines. “Lily” is also quite good, despite the fact that it’s not “Monday Morning”, meaning it is not about Zooey Deschanel, which saddens me a lot². My Second Absolute Favourite, “I’m Building a Fire”, is also Wonderful. It is slightly reminiscent of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”, although much happier-sounding. My absolute favourite, “Teardrop Windows” is actually one of his best songs EVER. I mean, it is so pleasant to listen to! and the music video is just charming!
I can only conclude that he was definitely going for a different vibe. I did read that this LP wasn’t meant to be quite so biographical, despite the fact that a) it was a SOLO album, b) and it covered “eight years, three relationships, living in two different places, drinking then not drinking”.
I’m pretty happy with it, overall. It’s a very pleasant addition to my music library (30% of which is made up of DCFC! because I haven’t got all their albums/EPs). I’m so happy for him!
For further Enlightenment, check out HuffPost’s Michael Hogan interview with Mr. Genius himself.
¹Admittedly, I had to wait just over a month to get it. And the fact that Sandy interfered with my two-month-long campaign for my parents to take me to Ben’s show in New York just made it worse. But, take my word for it, it is great.
²UGH. WHY DO I HAVE TO CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THIS?