I couldn’t begin this year long musical journey without starting first with this album. I am someone who has too many favorites, which defeats the purpose of the title “favorite,” but in this specific case it is true. Of all the albums in my collection this is the one I can listen to on repeat for hours and no matter where I’m at with my thoughts and feelings, this is always appropriate.
The first time I heard of Death Cab for Cutie was from my husband. He had heard their name on a Sirius radio show one night while working. He immediately thought to himself that they sounded like someone I would love. This was during my “emo” phase, when I deliberately did obscure things to seem “cool” and “niche.”
At first, I was hesitant because I wasn’t big on discovering new music. I had my then favorites, and there wasn’t any room for anything more at the time.
My husband bought this album and I reluctantly listened to it but from the first song I was in love.
This album, much like it’s collection of songs, represents a time of transition for me. It was that unstable time where my husband and I were still working on our relationship, after he had discovered I had been cheating. We were trying to make it work. We would have good moments but sometimes they were just sad. It’s just the natural ebb and flow of trust-building.
I was also moving from my “punk rock” wannabe phase into my more contemporary mellow, coffee house vibe.
The one thing it does bring to my mind is my time working at Border’s bookstore. It felt like I worked there for years but in reality, it was only a few months. I did not gel well with the store manager. She was the worst version of a businesswoman. The kind who thinks you have to act like the worst part of men to get ahead. She was genuinely horrible and was the main catalyst for me seeking employment at an office job. If it were not for her being such a tyrant, I wouldn’t have gotten the job that put me on the road to where I am now.
Apart from her, Border’s was such a chill experience. I unboxed product and got to shelve books. My favorite section was always metaphysical. I would peruse the pages held there more than any other.
At the time I worked in inventory, I would play “Plans” in the warehouse and on my breaks. One of my shift managers was this total hipster, who was rail thin and had hair akin to a young Justin Bieber. He was in a band, and without him telling you about it every second, could tell immediately. This dude loved Death Cab too and we would talk about them whenever we were in the other’s orbit. It was our only common thread of communication. One time, he made this off-hand comment that has stuck with me since. He said that the album was like a novel, and you couldn’t skip over a song or risk losing a part of the story. It was so “profound” to me at the time, but even to this day I couldn’t agree more. I think of that line each time I listen to it.
One of my more vivid memories from that time was when I was returning from my break. The audiobooks were next to the CD section on the way to the back warehouse. As I made my way there, I saw a married couple perusing the selection. She was this frail blonde woman, standing next to and caring for her husband in a wheelchair. The sight of them sent a twinge of sadness in my heart, and when I got to the back I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She was giving up her life to basically care for her wheelchair bound husband. “What kind of life is that?” I thought to myself. I knew I couldn’t do that.
It’s amazing what experience provides for perspective. I know now she did it because she loved him. Love is the most powerful force. It drives you to do things you never thought you could. Like, caring exclusively for another person. In hindsight, I find this whole miniscule moment strange. How could I remember that so vividly? It was almost as if I was foreshadowing my life.
If you have no interest in listening to the album, may I suggest three songs. For whatever reason, they mean the most to me. The first being “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” (my husband’s ringtone btw), “What Sarah Said,” and “Brothers on a Hotel Bed.”
There is a single line in “What Sarah Said” that makes me breakdown every time I hear it. And try as I may, I cannot stop the flood of tears. So, if even those three are too much, listen to that one. You’ll know what line it is when you hear it. Trust me.