The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Rachel Pott
Rachel Pott
News Writer

I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Ben Gibbard solo album highlights personal collection

When Ben Gibbard (lead singer of both the popular alt-rock band Death Cab for Cutie and electronic side project The Postal Service) announced he would be releasing a proper solo album for the first time, fans were eager to listen for more reasons than one.

Sure, there was the appeal of finding out how Gibbard would fare without Death Cab or The Postal Service backing him up.

But there was a more personal reason for curiosity: “Former Lives” was to contain the first music released by Gibbard since his divorce from Zooey Deschnael in 2011.

Story continues below advertisement

Many listeners were curious as to whether the record would provide a glimpse into his state of mind during this turbulent stage of his life.

This does not seem to be the case. “Former Lives” is, in fact, a collection of songs written by Gibbard during the past decade or so.

As a result, it’s a scattershot album by design, where acapella interludes, mariachi bands and alt-country are all welcomed with open arms.

It’s never exactly cohesive—in fact, listening to “Former Lives” can almost be disorienting at first for long-time Death Cab for Cutie fans.

However, the experimental scrapbook nature of the album isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, many of Death Cab’s LPs (particularly 2005’s “Plans”) had a tendency to feel musically monochrome by their second halves, so “Former Lives”’ scattershot approach is a nice change of pace.

The problem lies in the fact that many of the actual songs simply aren’t as memorable as those Gibbard gives to his main band. While he may have more colors on his palette this time around, that doesn’t keep most of them from blending together after a while.

Fortunately, there are quite a few tracks that stand out. “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby,” a minute-long, unaccompanied sketch of a melody23 is a weirdly perfect way to start the album off.

“Dream Song,” the album’s first full song (and perhaps its catchiest), is possibly the moment most reminiscent of Death Cab’s output.

“Bigger Than Love” puts guest star Aimee Mann to good use in a soaring duet with lyrics based on correspondence between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

“Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke),” or “the one with the mariachi band,” manages to avoid sounding like a gimmick by virtue of its laid-back melody.

In the end, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is a bit of an oddball in Gibbard’s discography. It’s certainly not the most ambitious album he’s ever recorded – but, interestingly, what saves it is that it’s not trying to be.

Ultimately, “Former Lives” is a warm, laid-back collection of good-but-not-great songs by one of America’s most beloved indie-pop artists, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

While it might not end up as your album of the year, it might just be the perfect soundtrack to your next rainy, fall Saturday.

More to Discover