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The Photo Album

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Album Review

Released in 2000, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes delivered on the promise of You Can Play These Songs with Chords and Something About Airplanes. For once, a band's popularity grew commensurate with its maturation. Despite the heightened attention, singer/songwriter/guitarist Ben Gibbard next let loose Death Cab for Cutie's finest moment, "Photobooth," the lead track on the sparkling Forbidden Love EP. New fans worldwide swooned under its beguiling romantic rise 'n' fall and its lingering, bittersweet, wallet-sized artifact. And though it wouldn't have killed them to include "Photobooth" here — for its spotless greatness and thematic likeness — The Photo Album's ten tracks are of the EP's heightened caliber. Gibbard's words screen intriguing mini-films of the mind, stoked by corresponding daydreamy music. An exquisite liaison of the British penchant for ringing, knelling, subconscious guitars and direct/grittier American drive, the band is tight, evocative, and inventive. Bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Michael Schorr lock in creative rhythmic bases, while Gibbard and Chris Walla's guitar work gives the band climactic, cinematic coloring shades. And, in the end, it's Gibbard's remarkable abilities as a writer and singer that are on display most. Each word draws you in via his sweet, thoughtful guy voice. The solo 1:47 opener, "Steadier Footing," is merely a starter course, but it feels like an entrée: "And this is the chance I never got/To make a move, but we just talk" is only one measure of the chances/plans/dreams/connections and relationships that have eluded him or fizzled. Reeled in, one is left to look back over one's own smoldering wreckage, of opportunities or attachments lost — much as "A Movie Script Ending"'s abrupt turn "Passing through unconscious states/When I awoke I was on the highway" somehow segues into the couplet "With your hands on my shoulders/A meaningless movement, a movie script ending." Like "Photobooth," it's a typically sobering, adverse assessment of how unromantic the romanticized can become. That it's a great pop song, arresting in its jerky wobble, is just another point in its, and this LP's, favor. The world needs more superb pop with brains and heart and emotional complexity.

Customer Reviews

The best

In love with this album!!!!

DCfC

Awesome!

One of the best

Loved the album

Biography

Formed: 1997 in Bellingham, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Death Cab for Cutie's rise from small-time solo project to Grammy-nominated rock band is one of indie rock's greatest success stories. Launched in the bayside college town of Bellingham, Washington, the group was originally a side project for singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard, an engineering student at Western Washington University who split his time between school and music. Taking a break from his local power pop band, Pinwheel, Gibbard began recording an album's worth of solo material during the summer...
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