[F]or an artist who has had so many successes as part of a variety of bands and side projects, it’s hard to place solo projects. Is this a direction the artist is headed? Or some combination of a few different projects? But Ben Gibbard has made it easy for us to figure out. His latest album, Former Lives, is not a new direction or forgotten Death Cab tunes. With these 12 tracks, Gibbard is closing the door on the last 8 years of his life by finally putting the bits and pieces of old relationships and travels into song.
Anybody who has ever traveled, missed or regretted an opportunity in some point in their life will find something in this collection of songs. It really is a diverse and varied collection, from the mariachi-tinged Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke) to the sadly effervescent duet with Aimee Mann, Bigger than Love. On the opening minute-long Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby, Gibbard narrates a drizzly walk through London as a “melancholy whimsical tune,” he sings. It’s just enough hook you in on one fifty-second snapshop of a day in his life while traveling.
The Aimee Mann duet is another standout from the album. There’s actually a similarity in Ben and Aimee’s voices that works surprisingly well. A track about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald’s tumultuous relationship, the two have made the ages old story relevant for 2012. One of the biggest surprises of the album is the mariachi-backed Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke) that’s an old cowboy tune. But when Ben sings it, it suits his voice and personality perfectly. “It’s always summer, in the southern state and it’s a comfortable life and a beautiful place.”
Broken Yolk in Western Sky is a alt-country track that soothes with its smooth pedal steel accents. One of the oldest tracks, Broken Yolk used to be a staple in his set when he played solo acoustic shows back in the early 2000s.
With such an eclectic collection, Gibbard has kept the theme of this album tight and succinct. And it completely works. Definitely check out this album, as you’re sure to find something (or many things) you love. Ben Gibbard
will be out on tour to support this album, dates are below!