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Music Review: “Transatlanticism” – Death Cab for Cutie

By Aaron Calvin COLUMNIST


“Transatlanticism,” Death Cab For Cutie’s fourth studio album, turned 10 this year. It’s not their best album – that’s “We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes” – and it’s not their most commercially popular, – that’s “Plans.” – but it may be the most important song in the band’s discography.

“Transatlanticism” is pervasive across all different platforms of media and firmly lodged within the minds of countless kids moping throughout America. I was among them.

The iconic black crow, tangled in red string hit shelves in Oct. 7, 2003, but I didn’t find it until 2006, the fall of my freshman year of high school. Albums like this hit you at a pivotal moment and they stick. As you grow and change, its meaning changes with you – to a point.

My relationship with this album can be traced through how I related to the title track over the years. The song, “Transatlanticism,” is the longest song on the album. Piano chords accompany Ben Gibbard’s plaintive desire to travel just by folding a map. This swells into the chant of “I need you so much closer,” which builds up to the final pleas of “So come on.” At the time, it seemed earth-shattering, a state more intimate and desperate than anything I’d heard before.

The first time I heard “Transatlanticism,”  was also the first time I fell in love. I would listen to the song and look out my bedroom window, feeling the kind of distance from my girlfriend that only dumb teens without a driver’s license feel.

A few years later, I was with someone else who was a year older than me. When she went to college a thousand miles away, the song matched my own restless feeling of being too far away. That relationship burned out and I moved away from the state I had lived in my entire life. I would let it play when the song came on shuffle as I sat in my dorm room and I thought about the people I used to see, the roads I used to drive every day.

A few years later, I returned to my home state for a festival headlined by Death Cab For Cutie. When the sun set on one of the hottest days of that summer, I heard “Transatlanticism” live for the first time and it didn’t hit me that hard. There was no moment. I was leaving the song behind.

A lot of reactions to the tenth anniversary of this album are nostalgic. It’s one of those milestones that prompts people to say “Wow, it was that long ago,” and “We’re so old now.” But to me, it serves as a reminder that the music that strikes you when you’re 15 is not going to mean the same thing at 21. As you grow and change, so do the things that mean the most to you. And that’s how it should be.


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