Benjamin Gibbard

Former Lives

Written by: HES on 17/01/2013 18:07:39

His name should ring a bell if you’ve ever listened to indie rock. He has fronted cult project The Postal Service and the giant success Death Cab For Cutie. With many more side projects to the above-mentioned, Benjamin Gibbard is productive man. And when asked why he now wanted to send out a solo album, he simply explained that he “had some extra songs”. Afraid of having to listen to an album made out of DCFC-rejects, I put the record on.

In the music video for Gibbard's first single “Teardrop Windows” is featured one of the most common clichés of California; the “agent” tells Gibbard that he is “too boring” pushing Gibbard into a montage of participation in reality shows, drinking and tattoos. The joke of it all is that any one would ever think of Gibbard as “boring”. Let me give you an example; one of my favourite tracks “Something’s Rattling” is in ¾-bars and featuring a depressed mariachi-band. Ben Gibbard is not boring.

“Former Lives” sets off in a playfull mood, full on acapella in the childish “Shepherds Bush Lullaby”. This becomes the general theme of the entire album: A childish playfulness with tunes, styles and sounds. It reminds me of something I’ve detected in DCFC but never as full on as on “Former Lives”. The inspiration of the album seems to be California and Ben Gibbard somehow successfully includes the hot dusty roads, the cultural diversity and the common depression of failed acting careers in the soundscape especially on “Teardrop Windows” and “Broken Yolk in Western Sky” – where it unfortunately takes over a bit too much.

The album still contains a few DCFC-like songs like “Dream Song”, “Bigger than Love”, “Lily” and “Building a Fire”. There is something both uplifting and melancholic in the way Gibbard composes and it’s not something he has left out of this album either. The album has a few more personal songs, that seems to have been created in the aftermath of his separation from actress Zooey Deschanel – for an example “Hard One To Know” that goes “First you smother then you disengage/your tears of joy dissolve to tears og rage/’cause you’re a hard, a hard one to know”.

All in all this album is a complete package: There are up-tempo songs, slow ballads, zen-like ambient waves of guitar, amazing lyrics, radio-hits and the songs only fans will appreciate. The places where Gibbard’s creativity takes over a bit too much almost suits it because it breaks with the beauty of the whole thing. The only premise you’ll have to buy into is the “drowsiness” and melancholy of the album. Even though some of the songs pick up a lighter mood and even tempo, the album is drenched with a “blue note”. But this is an album that all of whom that proclaims to love indie rock should have on their shelf.

Download: Bigger Than Love, Building A Fire, Something's Rattling
For The Fans Of: Death Cab for Cutie, Freelance Whale, Now Now

Release Date 16.10.2012

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