Thank You for Today by Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie, the little indie emo band that could, has been with me for nearly half my life. Their debut album, Something About Airplanes, came out shortly after I moved to Seattle, and connected with the early-20-something me like nothing else had before. And then their next three albums solidified their place in my brain, permanently engraved and ready to call upon when needed. There hasn’t always been love from me for the band — their four most recent albums, recorded for the much-bigger music label Atlantic, haven’t stood the same test of time (their last album to be featured on the Top 31, Codes and Keys, was #12 in 2011, but their utterly forgettable 2015 album Kintsugi was utterly forgotten).
And now Thank You for Today, the band’s tenth album (if you include their original demo album You Can Play These Songs with Chords), and their first without co-lead-songwriter Chris Walla (who departed the band just before the release of Kintsugi), somehow found its way into my go-to listens for the year. The beauty of lead singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard’s lyrics have always needed strong music to back them up (just listen to his offshoot album as Postal Service), and that’s what Walla brought to the table. Without him, the songs on this album feel transitory and ephemeral. Alternately, since I’m no longer in my 20s, maybe the dynamic range of my emotions is muted, or redirected. Gibbard continues to write about urbanism (see the above video for “Gold Rush,” all about Seattle’s insanity from the last ten years) and romanticism, but my emotional connections lie elsewhere.
I struggle to put my finger on why, exactly, given the above difficulties, but #20 is where this album gets placed. Not one of the best from the year, but better than the worst 11 out of 31 for the year. Ambiguous and inexplicable, just like the music within.
21. Black Panther: The Album by Kendrick Lamar
22. Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film) by Thom Yorke
23. Merrie Land by The Good, the Bad & the Queen
24. Room 25 by Noname
25. WARM by Jeff Tweedy
26. God's Favorite Customer by Father John Misty
27. Vessel by Frankie Cosmos
28. For Ever by Jungle
29. Twerp Verse by Speedy Ortiz
30. Remain in Light by Angélique Kidjo
31. This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet by Moonface