Day 114-- favorite albums of all time, part 2

Death Cab for Cutie-- Something About Airplanes

Let's get this straight. This is how I feel about Death Cab for Cutie--they're a good band overall, but their newer, popular stuff really pales in comparison to their earliest material, especially this album. I don't care what defense you come up with or how grouchy I sound; Something About Airplanes is a rolling juggernaught of musicality, and everything afterward by the band consecutively downgrades to Eagle Talon territory.

Something About Airplanes was spawned from the cassette tape frontman Ben Gibbard recorded on his own. He recruited three more musicians to form the first incarnation of the band. The album is definitely these things--indie rock (it was released as a joint effort by two small labels); lo-fi (the finished recording is very raw, very authentic); and it has some musical qualities the band shed over the course of their next few albums: shoegazer (shimmering dense guitars), dream pop (hypnotic melodic passages), and slowcore (meandering, slower tempos, minimalism).

I think Something About Airplanes *sounds* unlike any other CD I own. The two guitars chatter and bob and dip and tremble and sound like tin foil caught in the breeze. When they're distorted, it's the only sound you want stuck in your head--the single coil pick-ups garble the speaker tones into an indistinct haze that falls like snow. But I also love Nathan Good's drumming; I wish he would've stayed with the band for more than one album. He's very simple, but I take in his cymbal washes and snare/bass drum combos with relish. Ben Gibbard's lyrics are great too, not overly sentimental or cloyingly poetic like he's wont to do now; very skillfully navigating emotionally cracked terrain, dipping behind metaphor and wordplay when needed. The best track on the album is probably "Amputations," which slowly builds up from a clacky drum part, then layering the guitars, adding the spidery bass, and finally voice. And it's way catchy, to the point of it being creepy.

But it's a great album, every track. This is one of the few albums I can listen to over and over and not get bored, and closer "Line of Best Fit" is the perfect way to finish an album. I still can't understand why DCFC fans--mostly newer ones--ignore this album. Go figure.

There are three great MP3s on Epitonic's site for free.

"Champagne from a Paper Cup"

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/28/2006 09:52:00 PM,


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