On one of the few days left lingering between my high school graduation and freshman year of college, Death Cab for Cutie released their fifth studio album, Plans, and I’d like to think the album’s drop was timed just for me. When I hear the hit singles that first tickled my eardrums in August of 2005—”Soul Meets Body,” “Crooked Teeth,” “I Will Follow You into the Dark”—framing the album with the nostalgia, wistfulness, and ache that Death Cab conjures up in the hearts of listeners like no other, I’m transported back to that end of summer and taken on a journey into the months and years that followed.
If you graduated from high school just before Plans released like I did, or if you have a single memory associated with their music, my hunch is that you have the same connection. Death Cab’s songs are the kind that burrow deep inside you. At the time, you thought you were just listening, the music washing over you, and then years later you hear “Someday You Will Be Loved” in a coffee shop and look around to find yourself inside a memory you’d thought was long gone.
The songs hadn’t merely washed over you at all; they had taken root inside, been there with you all this time.
There is no richer example of this for me than “Summer Skin,” song number three on Plans, its drumbeat strong, reminiscent of time marching forward, Ben Gibbard’s voice and the lyrics just inches from uncertainty. This combination evokes the tension that memories seem to so often be made of—is this the same feeling I had in that moment? Do I remember this the way it actually happened? Is the accuracy of the memory what’s important, or is the meaning in the story the memory tells?
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*Image Credit: Cameron Morgan