Death Cab for Cutie Something about Airplanes

[Barsuk; 1999]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: indie rock, indie pop, wuss rock
Others: Bedhead, Built to Spill, Colplay, Postal Service

Pop bands are a dime a dozen. They spring out from places you never would have thought possible. It is so easy to be labeled a pop band nowadays. Just follow the simple formula: (1) a choice between one, two, or three guitarists, a drummer, and a bassist; (2) catchy songs (preferably verse-chorus-verse structures); (3) distortion pedals; and (4) optional Moog player.

Death Cab for Cutie has an advantage over the typical pop bands, though. Taking cues from Bedhead and Built to Spill, they have nearly perfected the indie-pop format It's hard to pinpoint what exactly 'perfecting the indie-pop format' means, but it must have something to do with being able to write extremely catchy songs without ever becoming boring or predictable. And DCFC does just that. Sure, it could also be called musical imperialism, but it's sure hard not to sing along to the music.

The strength of DCFC has a lot to do with Ben Gibbard. It is no secret that Mr. Gibbard is gushing with talent. He started in a solo project playing all the instruments under the name All-Time Quarterback. Now, Ben is the singer/writer/guitarist and founder of DCFC. His voice seems very familiar, yet unique at the same time. Similarities can be drawn from such artists as Elliott Smith, Doug Martsch, and Matthew Pryor.

Something About Airplanes is arguably DCFC's most important and best album to date. It is not produced as well as their newest efforts, but maybe that is why it is so great. Subtle mistakes and "sloppiness" are spread throughout, giving the album a raw, yet genuine feel.

Pop, with its many many limitations, does not get much better than this. DCFC is definitely top of the line; think of them as the Wonder Bra of pop music. These guys can write a damn good tune, and as much as you'd like to hate it, you won't be able to get the melodies out of your head anyway. So just enjoy it. Or try to. Although the music is not the most original stuff on the planet, it sure gives pop a new coat to impress the world.

1. Bend to Squares
2. President of What?
3. Champagne from a Paper Cup
4. Your Bruise
5. Pictures in an Exhibition
6. Sleep Spent
7. The Face That Launched 1000 Ships
8. Amputations
9. Fake Frowns
10. Line of Best Fit