In July 2012 I pulled out of the driveway of my childhood home for the very last time. Sitting beside my friend I was given the option to play a song. That mixture of excitement of finally becoming an independent adult, all the while absolutely terrified of losing the freedom you have of your teenage years burned up inside me. As the auburn sky filtered through the windscreen as we made our way to London, a familiar voice seemed to encapsulate every racing thought in my mind. “And we shed what was left of our summer skin.”
“This wasn’t just the fifth studio record from DEATH CAB, BUT much like myself, Plans was a transitional record from our youth into young adulthood.”
In 2005 Washington’s Death Cab For Cutie hid away from the world and harsh realities of adult life in a farmhouse just outside of North Brookfield, Massachusetts. If you were to glance over the intimate and arresting images from music photographer Autumn De Wilde’s book, Death Cab For Cutie, published five years later after the release of Plans, you wouldn’t find the usual collection of heavy production lead imagery, but rather moments of vocalist Ben Gibbard and his fellow band members dressed as medieval knights, fending off one another with plastic swords, or admiring a singular black horse in a snow covered field in the rural town. This wasn’t just the fifth studio record from one of the most important bands in low fi indie, but for many, much like myself, Plans was a transitional record from our youth into adulthood.
Whilst opening track, Marching Bands Of Manhattan seems to have a rose tinted feel to it, hailing an ability to make us feel nostalgic for both memories and places we have never been, the journey through the duration of Plans takes you both to the best and worst moments of adulthood. “I cannot guess what we’ll discover” cries out Ben Gibbard as we move onto the uplifting Soul Meets Body. These two tracks were always ones to make the playlist when it came to sitting around in beer gardens or grassy parks with new friends, blissfully enjoying every moment before the world of adulthood, stresses of university, and growing up were to kick in. Their melodies softly underlying any feelings of freedom.
“Jumping into the unknown with the hope that you weren’t the only one? That. That was something we were all secretly thinking about…”
Regardless of the record, there is one stand-alone track that seems to have projected Death Cab into the world of both emo, and emotional records across the board in 2005. The melancholy love song, I Will Follow You Into The Dark was more than just a cry for companionship, but also the comforter in the loneliest of moments when you began to think, ‘what the hell am I doing?. Where am I going?’. Death was the last thing on the mind of an 18-year-old (however, this would change greatly over the next 16 months), but jumping into the unknown with the hope that you weren’t the only one? That. That was something we were all secretly thinking about as we climbed into our beds in the early hours that followed relentless flat parties, or on train rides back to our hometowns.
There are key moments in our lives where we look back and realise our parents were right. Now, six years later what I carry through with me into my new apartment is very minimal, and a far less amount than all of my belongings I had tried to cram into my student halls. A handful of records, photographs, and clothes do me just fine, and a longing to go out and see the world without a materialistic ball and chain burns so deeply within me every time I hear the words of Your Heart Is An Empty Room. If you’re looking for life advise that still enables you to reject the idea of your parents being able to say ‘I told you so’… well Plans is the go-to record for it. And the life advice flows through every single lyric on this record. Furthermore the piano heavy, Someday You Will Be Loved helps you to make sense of the first time you hear those words ‘it’s not meant to be’, or rather the cheap ‘it’s not you it’s me’.
“Never before has a record been a true friend.”
During the 44 minutes and 25 seconds that Plans run, never have I, nor many experienced a record that truly reflects on the hardships of transitioning into adult life, a record you’ll find in years to come stashed in a memory box alongside old photographs, train tickets and trinkets. Tales of first romances, first encounter with death, loss, grief, enjoyment, hope and realisation are weaved throughout the record. From letting go of personal possessions and trading them in for a new sense of adventure and minimalism, to finding the most personal of comfort in the heartbreaking narrative of What Sarah Said, helping so many to get through a number of close family deaths with a sense of bravery, Plans has been more than just a record.
To reflect on this record outside of personal experiences and rather from the world of music journalism, from Transatlanticism to Plans, Death Cab For Cutie is a band that will continue to influence anyone that chooses to communicate personal life traumas and lessons through the medium of music.
Never before has a record been a true friend, and I don’t doubt for a moment that throughout the rest of my life, there won’t be a moment that can be comparable, nor soundtracked by the songs of this record.
WORDS: GEORGIA RAWSON