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There might not be a more self-aware musician than Death Cab For Cutie songwriter Ben Gibbard. Across nine albums with the Seattle, Washington indie rock legends, not to mention his efforts as vocalist for The Postal Service and a spattering of solo and collaborative projects that have settled into niche audiences, he’s made music that soundtracked big emotional moments for a generation be it on CDs, iPods, The OC, or Spotify. Because of that, he’s held dear like a childhood stuffed animal, an icon of an era that will forever have his place on the shelf, still worth returning to for comfort or inspiration whenever needed.
And Gibbard is aware of how important his music is to people. Since signing to a major label in 2004, his career has been based on walking the wire of the songwriter performing at house shows and dingy clubs to the band that was now playing on radio stations and television shows. The ensuing years have seen the band maintain the pop culture spotlight (every Death Cab album since Plans has offered up at least one radio hit), even as their sound took on more of a studio sheen than some fans would prefer.
“As I look back at some of our more recent albums, I get a sense of what we’re attempting to do,” Gibbard says by phone in early August, hours before his band is scheduled to headline a minor league baseball stadium in Boise, Idaho. “The goal of any band is to stay true to what you are good at while also pushing forward. You don’t get nine albums in without having a few bumps in the road. Not every album can be your best record and not every record can be the truest expression of who you are in that moment. Or, sometimes it is an expression of who you are in that moment, but you’re a little lost. Maybe you’re off the path.”
But it’s not with a false sense of hope that he adds this final part: “I hope for this album, that this reminds people what they love about the band, and they find songs on here that connect them to the larger discography that this band has.”