College is generally the time when we figure out who we are, or who we want to be. That’s certainly true of myself, though I kinda had it figured out before then. I wanted to write about music, or make music, or some combination of the two, and I’ve been doing both ever since, more or less. But in college you also find like-minded people who share the same interests—people who also survived living in a small town by discovering art made by weirdos. Through writing for my school paper (all four years!) and DJing at the radio station, I ended up making a lot of friends that I still keep in touch with and can pick up with them where we left off regardless of how long it’s been. And that’s pretty fantastic.
But I remember, in particular, having lots of conversations about music that probably only made sense if you had been drinking. Like, for instance: Were early Beatles songs the original punk rock? (I think the consensus at that moment was that it went back farther than that, even. But who even knows?) Come to think of it, Beatles arguments came up a lot: Like, does the second half of the White Album suck? (It doesn’t, but I can see where one would reach that conclusion.)
There were also lots of jokes about emo, and because I was the guy who listened to most of the indie stuff and wore sweaters…I at one point became known as “Emo Sweater Jeff.” (Which I’m sure comes as a surprise to anyone who still for some reason thinks the only music I listen to is metal.) It didn’t last, mostly because eventually everyone adopted the policy of calling me by my last name (including my own wife, LOL), but that was a thing that happened for a moment.
And that’s kind of fair, considering I was spending a lot of time listening to albums like We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. Now, just to be clear on this, it’s not really an emo album. There’s an argument for it to fit into the pantheon of classic emo albums, but stylistically it doesn’t really sound like The Promise Ring or The Get Up Kids. It sounds a little bit like American Football, so there’s that, I suppose. But it also contains some of the best songs Death Cab for Cutie ever wrote, songs of heartbreak and confusion that can be really affecting to someone who’s young and still kind of figuring shit out.
Singer Ben Gibbard says that he doesn’t think the band’s earlier records are their best, because they’re more ambitious now and know more about recording and pop songwriting and all that. But…he’s wrong. I haven’t actually liked a Death Cab for Cutie album in over a decade. Which is a bummer because I love their first five albums.
But you don’t always grow with your favorite bands, and vice versa. I’m glad that a band I once loved reached this level of success, even if I don’t necessarily care for how they’ve evolved artistically. It’s fine. I’ll just keep enjoying the Emo Sweater Death Cab that I found in the first place.
Sound Quality: Good/Great