After fifteen years in Death Cab for Cutie during which that band and his other projects (including The Postal Service and other collaborations) have sold nearly 5 million albums in the United States alone, Ben Gibbard didn’t make his first solo album in search of a new beginning; instead, it closes a door. “These songs span eight years, three relationships, living in two different places, drinking then not drinking” he says of the dozen newly-recorded tracks that comprise Former Lives. “They’re a side story, not a new chapter.”
“In Death Cab, we’ve always been very specific,” Ben explains. “We record for the album and then maybe two or three more.” But fresh ideas and new experiences don’t stop during the weeks and months between the studio and the tour bus; life rarely follows a neatly organized itinerary. “When I’m home between records my only job is writing songs,” Ben says. “So when I get up in the morning, what else am I gonna do?” Over time, stray ideas – some fully-formed, others just flecks of melody – filled notebooks and hard drives but as Death Cab songs they never quite, in Ben’s words, “fit into the whole.”
Between fruitful sessions with Death Cab for what would eventually become 2011’s Codes & Keys, Ben holed up with some friends in Los Angeles to make some “solo” recordings, enjoying both the careful process of turning what had seemed like disparate material into a cogent album of songs and the spontaneity, as Ben puts it, to say things like “f*ck it, let’s get a Mariachi band.”
Former Lives is a gorgeous shadow anthology, the exuberant sound of one of our best songwriters looking back and making something great and new in the process.
RIYL: Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service, The Decemberists, Stars
TRY: #3, 2, 4, 6, 10
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