Benjamin Gibbard, frontman for major alt-act Death Cab For Cutie, has been on a positive swing in recent years, from marrying The New Girl/‘She’ of She & Him (QRO live review) Zooey Deschanel to quitting drinking to Death Cab’s upbeat latest, last year’s Codes & Keys (QRO review). But there’s also that shadow of darkness, from his more downbeat country team-up with Jay Farrar (Son Volt – QRO album review), One Fast Move Or I’m Gone (QRO review), to divorcing the adorkable Deschanel. Yet Gibbard’s latest, completely solo excursion, Former Lives, is a sweet and totally enjoyable record.
Listeners should be prepared for the sweet, as Lives is not a somber Death Cab record, but rather an upbeat solo Gibbard.It also hews to the acoustic, unlike the more indietronic Codes or his work with Jimmy Tamborello (DNTEL – QRO album review), The Postal Service (which basically introduced the world to indietronica), though the new record is not as far into country as One Fast Move (but it’s hard to be more country than anything with Farrar…).Instead, Lives is an upbeat, even jaunty collection of songs.After a-cappella opener “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby”, Gibbard delivers tune after tune that are smiling, but not too sweet.
Death Cab For Cutie partisans might think Gibbard’s ‘gone soft’ in recent years – but they probably never forgave him from leaving longtime indie imprint Barsuk for major label Atlantic (though Former Lives is out on Barsuk, similar to solo release by Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla, Field Manual – QRO review). Former Lives does lack a little for a standout, but that’s just from being so enjoyable, nearly top-to-bottom.