Ben, Chris, Nick and Jason, I didn’t want to have to say this, but I had really high expectations for you on this album. Elliott’s gone. The Dismemberment Plan broke up, as well as everyone on deSoto Records. Neutral Milk Hotel will never release an album again. All of the Pavement offshoots are OK at best. All of the At the Drive-In offshoots are decent to unbearable. And don’t even get me started on Olivia Tremor Control.
What I’m getting at here is that you’re one of the only staples left in my indie rock diet. It’s down to Sleater-Kinney, Modest Mouse, Spoon, Built to Spill and you guys. Sure there’s plenty of new bands I like, but it’s like being at college after all of your friends have already graduated. It’s an awkward kind of lonely feeling you get when you realize all your friends are younger than you.
So it was comforting to hear just how warm and inviting Transatlanticism is. The opening blast of “The New Year” showed a band emerging from their lo-fi cocoon to become a newly metamorphosed rock `n’ roll band. Sure, people are going to give you the U2 comparisons, but it’s all a part of the induction ceremony into the Hall of Rock Greatness.
“Lightness” and “Title and Registration” recall the Death Cab of old — minor key melodies; slow, dreamy textures. And the former’s use of weird, squeaky-wheel sounds is a nice touch.
You almost lost me with the “self/shelf” rhyme on “Expo ’86,” but the melody is just so irresistible, I couldn’t hold it against you. And then I heard the “ba-bas” on “Sound of Settling,” and all was forgiven.
But I didn’t really realize just how much you four had grown until I heard the title track. It was clear, judging by the grandiosity of the performance, that you didn’t want to stay a humble, fuzzy pop band forever. This sort of move can catapult bands into greatness or bury them under critical backlash for their defiance of traditional indie aesthetics. But Ben, when I heard you sing “I need you so much closer” over a melancholy wash of gently plucked guitar and ascending bass and drums, it was not only surprising, but comforting.
Well, guys, I must say, I’m quite impressed with Transatlanticism. Maybe not everyone will like it at first. It might take a little getting used to for longtime Death Cab fans, but it’s the best thing you or anyone else has put out in a long time.
Good job, fellas.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.