By the time 2011 rolled around, Death Cab for Cutie had been at it for fourteen years. I had been following them for just over half of that time, discovering them, along with a boatload of others, with their 2003 album, “Transatlanticism”. The Washington-based indie pop/rock band has been pretty solid in releasing quality albums since that time, impressively sustained through a constantly evolving sound. But for some reason, with each album, my interest has faded some. I was fanatical with “Transatlanticism” and then, with 2005’s “Plans” but three albums later, I have been much less so. In fact, when sitting down to write this, I didn’t just listen to this one song. I had to listen to the whole album because I honestly couldn’t remember what it sounded like.
Of course, when I listened to “Codes and keys”, I loved it all over again. It was like I was back in 2011 and I re-experienced the whole gamut of emotions. From the excitement at seeing their name listed as headliner on the main stage on the final night of Bluesfest to the disappointment I felt when I realized I would have to miss it because I had a prior engagement. To the surprise when I heard their set was cancelled that night when the stage collapsed due to a violent storm and the commiseration with those attending that didn’t get to experience them live. They’ve yet to return to Ottawa as promised but I can at least say I got to see them in 2006 when they toured for “Plans”.
“You are a tourist” was the first single released off “Codes and keys” and managed the group their first hit single, charting high on multiple singles charts and hitting number one on a few of these. Written and recorded during the period where frontman Ben Gibbard was married to Zoey Deschanel, the subject matter of the album’s lyrics are less melancholic than previous efforts. The sound, too, is quite a change from its predecessors, being less guitar driven. “You are a tourist” is definitely a drums forward piece, the rhythm catching hold of the listener right away. Meanwhile, the bass line just hangs out, there in the low end, waving hello and minding its own business. The keyboards tinkle and the guitars jump in for flourishes, face grating though they can get at times, just to remind us they’re still there. Gibbard is suggesting that change is a good thing, positively positing that when you feel a tourist in your own town, it’s time to move on.
Yep. I listened to the song and wondered to myself how I let it go so long between listens. It won’t happen again.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.