Ben Gibbard (or is he going by Benjamin now?), mastermind behind rock band Death Cab for Cutie who was one of the pioneers of emo just released his first single off of his upcoming solo record, Former Lives. It sounds just as you would imagine it to sound like. A song written by a weathered emo frontman who experienced moderate success and decides to go solo. It’s a simple song that walks the fine line between mediocre and “adult contemporary.” It’s very easy to fall on the wrong side. At least on the mediocre side of things, you have the ability to salvage and save yourself. You can maybe even redeem yourself on the same record. Feist’s 2011 album Metals fell into that latter category for me. Is Ben next?
I think Death Cab for Cutie have reached a saturation point in the “pop” world. The fact that they are even signed to a major label and had a single (“Soul Meets Body”) actually chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 at number 60 is peculiar. I think all of us indie kids let go of DCFC years ago. I broke up with DCFC just after watching Edie (Mena Suvari) and Claire (Lauren Ambrose) got high and started singing along to “Transatlanticism” on HBO’s Six Feet Under. At the time, that scene resonated so well with me. But little did I know that was the beginning of the end of DCFC for me.
This isn’t Ben’s first solo venture. Death Cab for Cutie was a solo project until Ben found some bandmates. And let’s not forget his underrated lo-fi project ¡All-Time Quarterback! which had the amazing Magnetic Fields cover of “Why I Cry.” I also remember him touring as Ben Gibbard, covering songs like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” at shows across the states in the early aughts.
The song is called “Teardrop Windows.” The song title alone is what saves the track from falling into the depths of “adult contemporary.” Ben just oozes with sentimentality. His voice just aches with a lovelorn pitch. The words “Teardrop Windows” is effortlessly emo; only someone like Ben could get away with a song title like that.
I was hoping his divorce from Manic Pixie Dream Girl Zooey Deschanel would have resulted in a more dark and tortured song. Alanis Morissette needed a tumultuous break-up from Ryan Reynolds to write a good album (2008’s underrated Flavors of Entanglement). Maybe a divorce is what Ben needed to write a new record. A broken heart offers a lot of raw material. Perhaps, the rest of Former Lives will impress us. Let’s cross our fingers and hope there are some tortured love songs that make it on to the album. At some point I think we all have wondered what it’s like to (legitimately) fall in love with Zooey. I know many men envied Ben for marrying the former indie starlet. I wonder if any of us wondered what the break-up would be like. I don’t think our imaginations ever ran that far. Maybe we need to watch (500) Days of Summer again or hope that Ben will offer us some insight when his album drops.
Check out the track below. Former Lives is out October 16th via Barsuk Records.