Death Cab for Cutie is no stranger to emotional music, and if you’re in search of some rip-your-heart-out levels of pain today, you’ve come to the right place.
You can tell how good a band is by the quality of their longest songs. If you can produce an epic, 7+ minute track, you can do just about anything. For the same reason that “23” made Jimmy Eat World one of the greatest bands of all time, “Transatlanticism,” and its unique blend of pulsating melancholy, shows the depths of Death Cab’s musicianship, putting them on a similar level of greatness.
Many artists, especially in the pop realm, will repeat words or phrases ad infinitum as an attempt to make something catchy. It can get annoying. But under the right circumstances, repeated phrases can be used to evoke the heaviest of emotions and ignite feelings you never realized you had.
That’s exactly what “Transatlanticism” does so flawlessly.
“I need you so much closer/I need you so much closer.”
It’s a simple line — why does it work so well? The lyrics are only one piece of the puzzle. I think it’s worth asking, would this song be as effective if it were sung by someone other than Ben Gibbard? His voice is very distinctive. He adds a soft, carefulness to everything he sings. And even as “Transatlanticism” builds on a steady crescendo to a powerful climax in its final moments, the words give off that same earnest, heartfelt impression as they did in the beginning.
Why does this simple line work? Because it’s real. It’s relatable. Gibbard felt it, so will you. It’s the type of line that makes you feel sad, even if you haven’t yet had to deal with physical or metaphorical distance within a relationship. If a song can make you feel things you didn’t know were possible, it deserves a spot up top with the greats.
And ultimately, that’s why “Transatlantacism” is Death Cab for Cutie’s greatest accomplishment, and why it is our Song of the Day.