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BRIEF HISTORIES - Don Jaucian - The Philippine Star

For the aughts-stained heavy hearts, no other band is more adept at stoking the flames of slumbering emotions other than Death Cab for Cutie. To this day, there are probably more memories embedded in Transatlanticism than, say, in Wanderland co-headliner Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, itself an emotive chronicle of languishing and longing. Ben Gibbard doesn’t speak in obscure codes or sing in garbled syllables—he lays it out on the line, exposing himself the same way our hearts are laid bare when he sings lines such as “But I know it’s too late / I should have given you a reason to stay”. The lasting appeal of their songs hinges in this transparency, coupled by the piercing pain and dormant remembrances that accompany each swell of music.

Death Cab’s latest release, Kintsugi—a title Tumblr kids associate with a viral post of the same Japanese art of repairing cracked pottery with gold or silver—is ingrained with the same DNA of brokenness that has fuelled much of the band’s career. Yet, there are no more memories to be made with No Room in Frame or The Ghosts of Beverly Drive the way we’ve all done with Passenger Seat or Styrofoam Plates—heights of our emo years that we’ve all tried to bury along with our checkered wristbands and photos with Pete Wentz circa 2005 hair. Much of the music that came out during the glory days of emo-punk has not surpassed its nostalgic status. Death Cab’s early catalog, however, has managed to emerge out of that bubble unscathed, mostly because it has elevated the dorkdom of teenage feelings with a warm fuzz of intricate guitars, devastating hooks, and a buildup that tonally approximates how thundering emotions can easily tide you over. Transatlanticism is undoubtedly their masterpiece, an eight-minute epic that actually sounds like the world slowly expanding, taking you farther away from the one you love.

The proliferation of blog-rock staples in the 00’s have further ensconced Death Cab into a permanent fixture in the soundtrack of our teenage angst, when unrequited love was the fuel to our fantasies. Dashboard Confessional was our feet marching on the pavement. Fall Out Boy was our hearts dancing until we lost it. Taking Back Sunday and The Used were our anger, crystallized and screamed out. But Death Cab for Cutie remains the cocoon that steadies the beating of our hearts, no matter how hazy things might seem. The band’s catalog occupies that plane in our existence where, as Dawson’s Creek’s Jen Lindley put it, “our intellects are sharper, our quips are wittier and our hearts are repeatedly broken while faintly in the background some soon-to-be out-of-date contemporary pop music plays.”

I first heard Death Cab perform Transatlanticism live exactly four years ago, standing among a sea of people, swaying, singing “I need you so much closer” along with everyone else while I’m thinking of my boyfriend who was just starting his day thousands of miles away from where I am. Last Saturday, I watched Death Cab live again, with my boyfriend by my side this time, and as expected, when the opening patter of Transatlanticism came rolling in, the emotions I’ve bottled up in that track were still as potent even though years have gone by. Hearing Bon Iver’s magnificent set with The Staves was doubly devastating, perhaps it even eclipsed Death Cab’s performance that night. Justin Vernon performed a stripped down version of Skinny Love which he imbued with anguish, Roslyn, WA was even more haunting with The Staves cooing in the background instead of St. Vincent, and The Wolves (Act I & II)was just as devastating, with the crowd shouting “What might have been lost” as the sound swelled and swelled until our hearts and heads and could feel no more.

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