“I wanna know the measure from here to forever,
and I wanna feel the pressure of God or whatever”
Death Cab for Cutie has felt like a warm blanket for over twenty years. Even with music that is rooted deep in emotion, there is a comfort that they bring to the table. It’s been four years since Thank You For Today and today we are finally able to soak in their 10th studio album: Asphalt Meadows.
The moment Ben Gibbard’s voice starts up on the first track, “I Don’t Know How I Survive”, you feel like you’re home. As always, there is a rawness to the words Gibbard sings and it pairs with life-giving guitar riffs and heart-thumping beats.
It takes a certain level of talent to be able to produce a song that describes the late nights when you’re desperate just to get to the next morning but make it sound eloquent. “I Don’t Know How I Survive” simply questions survival in those low moments with guitar and drums that absolutely shred. You can feel the energy build and your heart start to race as you’re taken back to your experience with exactly what they’re singing about. This song feels like sitting alone in your room while the world happens around you—in a way that deserves to be sung about and a feeling that needs to be released.
A couple of tracks down “Rand McNally” is the kind of song written after you’ve come out of the survival mode captured on their first track. This song feels like a special moment, months after “I Don’t Know How I Survive”, where you’re living your life again. A bit of hope spreads and you’re alive again. If you find yourself slipping backward you can play the lyrics, “Don’t let the light fade, I won’t let the light fade, Chasing these roads into dawns, I won’t let the light fade,” and the soothing music and lyrics will bring you back down to earth.
Okay, Ben Gibbard. You opening “Here to Forever” with the verse…
“In every movie I watch from the ’50s, There’s only one thought that swirls, Around my head now, And that’s that everyone there on the screen, Yeah, everyone there on the screen, Well, they’re all dead now, They’re all dead now”
…was not where we thought you were going. However, it’s perfect. This is the song that you roll down your windows to or that causes you to stay home from work and dance. There’s something about the roller coaster the music takes you on that reminds you to live a little.
The most unique song on the album has to be “Foxglove Through the Clearcut”. Most of the track is spoken word, with the chorus being sung. I think everyone can get something different from this song. It has moments of fear and questioning the simple fact that death is inevitable. The lyric that hit me the most was, “And no one seems interested in fixing what they’ve broken, They just sweep the pieces into the bushes and slip away”. It calls me out for both the moments I’ve run from what I needed to do after the hurt I’ve felt from people who have done the same. Death Cab has the ability to tell a story that could be about any one of our lives. They paint pictures that feel like memories. “Foxglove Through the Clearcut” is a prime example of that skill we love.
“I’ll Never Give Up On You” ends the album with a sweet touch that has you buzzing with the soundwaves from the guitar and the thumping of the drums. This song feels personal as if Ben Gibbard is singing directly to you. There aren’t many lyrics but the song says all it needs to. It’s the one we want to listen to first thing in the morning. “I’ve given up on confrontation, And I’ve given up on every politician too, And I’ve given up on affectations, And the dilettantes they all consume, But I’ll never give up, never give up, I’ll never give up on you,” might be my favorite lyrics from the entire album. They are exactly what you want someone to say to you and hearing them is inevitably paired with warmth and a bit of light.
“Asphalt Meadows” makes you feel seen and a bit less alone. Death Cab captured the emotions that welled up inside of you, that you don’t quite know how to describe. All while giving it a beat that makes you want to sing along.
Songs like “I Don’t Know How I Survive” embody those dark moments that live in your head, while “I’ll Never Give Up On You” gives you the spark of hope that gets us through the day. It’s a balance of darkness and light. It’s the human experience inside of our own heads. So while you’re struggling to find the words, turn up this album and let yourself be understood.
Stream it, Buy it, Skip it?: Buy this album right now. Feel some feelings and fall back in love with your favorite band.