People like Death Cab for Cutie right? They’re hip with the kids. They even had a song in one of those Twilights I’ve heard so much about. Then why is it that frontman Ben Gibbard’s debut solo album was so quickly forgotten? Maybe people just didn’t know. I certainly didn’t see much publicity for Former Lives before it was released. In that case, consider this one for the diehard Death Cab fans. As one of those presumably “hip” fans I can gladly say that Former Lives is everything I could want in a Ben Gibbard solo album.
Those looking for a departure from the settled sound of Death Cab have come to the wrong place. Ben Gibbard’s solo material is more or less interchangeable with the material he writes for Death Cab. The only slight difference is Former Lives more stripped down approach. Former Lives is populated primarily by acoustic driven songs and a stronger pop sensibility. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Gibbard and your overall opinion will most likely be shaped by how much you like his schoolboy softness (poor choice of words) going in.
With Gibbard still in the wake of his divorce to Zooey “New Girl” Deschanel you can’t help but wonder if these songs about love and loss reflect that relationship. Putting that into consideration adds some dimension and makes the overall tone a little bittersweet. I’d like to add that as a Pacific Northwesterner I support Team Ben and will until I die a violent caramel macchiato-soaked death.
For anyone who found the last Death Cab too experimental this should be more to your liking. Songs like; “Dream Song”, “A Hard One to Know” or “Teardrop Window” should give you just the amount of optimistic pop pep you need. “Bigger Than Love” might be a pleasant surprise with a complimentary vocal performance from guest vocalist Aimee Mann. Not to be forgotten is “Duncan, Where Have You Gone?” a soothing ballad that calls back to Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s 1970 song “Forever”.
Some tweens may like Death Cab but when it comes to Ben Gibbard’s solo career I feel like I’m the intended audience. I’m an indifferent twentysomething from the Pacific Northwest. Former Lives is more or less the ideal soundtrack for a guy like me. Most will see it as a footnote in Death Cab’s career but I’m on the other end of the spectrum. Former Lives is a tender display of Gibbard’s sophisticated pop sensibilities that shouldn’t be ignored.
Favorite Tracks: “Bigger Than Love”, “Duncan, Where Have You Gone?”, “Dream Song”