Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our 11 favourite Death Cab songs, ranked
Few bands embody 00s confessional, candid and emotionally wrought indie rock as succintly as Washington’s Death Cab For Cutie. Since 1997, Ben Gibbard and his band have made it cool to be sensitive, and with their tenth studio album Asphalt Meadows, their presence in popular culture only remains more precious.
From their early records to peak The OC stardom to their latter-day status as indie’s elder statesmen, Death Cab have been ever reliable. Such consistency makes picking their 11 best songs quite the challenge.
11. You Are A Tourist
(Codes and Keys, 2011)
With its amped-up, poppy guitar line at the fore and its que sera sera attitude, ‘You Are a Tourist’ is quite the anomaly in Death Cab For Cutie’s back catalogue. It’s probably quite divisive in their fan base, but serves as a great palate cleanser, and for that reason regularly features in their live performances.
10. Crooked Teeth
A song about being stuck in the stasis of suburbia and modern life (“There were churches, theme parks and malls/ There was nothing there all along”) with a suitably slacker chorus, ‘Crooked Teeth’ stands out for the curiosity of its verses.
9. Company Calls
(We Have the Facts And We’re Voting Yes, 2000)
Throwing it way back to the turn of the millennium when the band were still in their rawer, emo (or, for the pedants, emo-adjacent) phase. Revisiting the blend of noodly guitars and guttural shouts on ‘Company Calls’ is like being transported straight back in time to that sweaty local venue when t-shirts were a fiver and the snakebites even cheaper.
8. A Movie Script Ending
(The Photo Album, 2001)
Another twinkly beauty from the same era, albeit with richer production, ‘A Movie Script Ending’ seemed to predict the band’s sync-ability, having appeared in countless films and TV shows – not least The OC, in which they’re Seth Cohen’s favourite band. The drum shuffle and punches seem to dance with the gorgeously rippling guitars like protagonists in their own drama.
7. Brothers On A Hotel Bed
Warm, elegant and nostalgic, ‘Brothers On A Hotel Bed’ is one of Death Cab’s most beautiful pieces of songwriting and yet is often forgotten about. “You may tire of me as our December sun is setting, ’cause I’m not who I used to be”, mulls Gibbard as he reflects on the distance of age, “No longer easy on the eyes but these wrinkles masterfully disguise the youthful boy below”. On paper it sounds fearful, but on record it’s delivered with a wistful inevitability that’s both comforting and crushing.
6. The New Year
Among all of Gibbard’s words buried in old Tumblr accounts or tattooed on arms, the opening line of ‘The New Year’ holds perhaps the most universal sentiment: “So this is the new year/ And I don’t feel any different”. Those two explosive hits that repeat throughout might echo the bang of fireworks, clinking of glasses or glimpses caught across the party.
5. Foxglove Through The Clearcut
(Asphalt Meadows, 2022)
The first single from Asphalt Meadows sees Death Cab at their most post-rock and is sure to be an instant set staple. It’s the contrast of Gibbard’s spoken word style and the explosive choruses weaved together by that cascading guitar line that makes this one so expansive and cathartic.
4. Soul Meets Body
What starts off meditative soon drops into one of their catchiest numbers, with ba da, ba da ba bahs, acoustic strumming and a classic disco drum beat; indeed, this turned out to be one of Death Cab’s biggest hits. But Chris Walla’s production still maintains a shimmering spirituality, giving lyrics such as “You’re the only song I want to hear/ A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere” a certain vividness.
3. I Will Possess Your Heart
(Narrow Stairs, 2011)
In a similar vein to The Police’s Every Breath You Take, this track has become one of the band’s best known songs despite essentially being a stalker’s diary entry. Here, though, the lyrics are prettier and more poetic, which make them momentarily charming and beguiling, but that sulky, slow-burning bass line reminds us of it’s dark and shifty undercurrent. There’s five minutes of build-up before the song properly begins, but such is its hypnotic effect that it could easily go on for longer without much notice.
(Narrow Stairs, 2011)
Inspired by Catherine Earnshaw – the protagonist of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights who is driven to insanity by the forced expectations of society – this second single from Narrow Stairs is by no means the band’s biggest commercial hit, yet is easily one of their most inviting. That muted brush of the guitar string is instantly recognisable and leads into a masterfully warm and rhythmic indie-rock drama.
The heart of Death Cab’s acclaimed breakthrough album is its title track, an eight-minute epic that builds gradually from sparse pianos to crashing cymbals, choral summons and a guitar line as simple as it is heart-breaking. In that time, we witness the Atlantic ocean reborn as a barrier that separates Gibbard and a lover with devastating resoluteness; ‘I need you so much closer’ is all he can muster, but as the song continues to rally and raise goose bumps, a sense of hope arises.