Home Geek LifeCulture Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 17 – Death Cab For Cutie

Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 17 – Death Cab For Cutie

by Patrick Phillips

Prepare your turntable for some heavy rotation bangers vinyl fans, ’cause Bandbox record club is officially in town, and they’re out to bring the record store to your own front door..

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Groove is in the Bandbox

If you’re wondering what the big deal with Bandbox is, the words FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE explain it all. Yep, Team Bandbox offers a tailor made vinyl experience every month by letting you fill your box with artists and albums that fit your own personal tastes. As their slogan goes, it’s pretty much like having the record store delivered to your front door every month, and Bandbox is currently boasting a record store style variety of artists including Neil YoungWeezerJoy Division/New Order, Wilco, The Cure, and Mr. Tom Petty. And just so you know – they’ve got a slew of shiny exclusive color pressings currently in stock from artists like Waxahatchee, The Hold Steady, and Elliott Smith.  

Customizability is the key to their coveted box. With the choice of a single album from an artist you love, and a fresh edition of the “Band Dox” zine showing up every single month, Team Bandbox has effectively made it possible to hit the record store from the comfort and safety of your very own home. And you can now dig their vinyl+zine treasures for a super reasonable $29 a month. 

Did I mention Bandbox even offers FREE SHIPPING? Well they do. And it’s sort of just the icing on the vinyl box cake.

What was in the box for December, you ask? Take a deep breath, ’cause this month brings a stunning, 15th Anniversary exclusive pressing of Death Cab For Cutie’s breakthrough record Plans.

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Bandbox’s do it your way format and increasingly vast catalogue of albums will help ease the nerves of folks wary of the record club scene. Just so you know, you can still choose to be surprised by Team Bandbox every month if that happens to be your bag. But if you remain suspect of that whole show, Bandbox will actually let you integrate your Discogs account to ensure they never even send you something you already have in your collection. 

And if you’re really, really suspect, you can pump the brakes out of your subscription at any time by pressing “pause” on your sub. It’s unlikely you’ll want to “pause” anything once you’ve signed up and experienced Bandbox for yourself. Just know that your Bandbox experience will be every bit as amazing as you make it.

Let the Great World Spin

If you’re anything like me, the early-2000s indie rock fanboy inside of you let rip a mighty “squeeee!” when you read the words “Death Cab For Cutie,” “Plans,” and “15th Anniversary exclusive pressing.” You might also have been a bit blown away by the words, ’cause it’s really hard to believe this album is now 15 years old. Yet here we are, digging that anniversary edition out of this month’s Bandbox. And in case I hadn’t made it clear at this point, this reissue is indeed a limited pressing, so once that “squeee!” has passed and you realize you need this vinyl in your collection, head on over to Bandbox land and grab yours before its gone.

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As for my copy of Plans, it’s #530 of 1,000. Yes, I’ve already giddily logged that info into my Discogs page. And yes, you’re reading that label correctly that this exclusive, limited edition was indeed pressed on Coke Bottle Clear wax. More on that later.

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Death Cab For Cutie – Plans (2005)

How do you make God laugh? Make a plan. As far as mission statements for tender-hearted, raw-nerve indie rock albums go, tackling such a heavy conceptualism in the space of an 11 song opus is not the tactic most bands would take. Then again, Ben Gibbard is not your typical frontman. And Death Cab For Cutie is not your average rock band.

Founded in Seattle, Washington in 1997, the Death Cab For Cutie spent the last years of the decade that birthed both the sludgy alternative rock scene and the boy band/pop princess craze crafting crackling, introspective power-pop anthems that didn’t sound like either. Between ’97 and 2002, the band released a handful of critically-adored (but commercially underwhelming) releases and kept to a relentless touring schedule – both of which helped them build a strong West Coast following that gleefully feasted on their catchy hooks and crunchy vibes.

In 2003, however, DCFC would find their fandom exploding thanks in no small part to regular mentions and frequent needle drops on the hit teen melodrama The O.C. – not to mention the astonishing one-two punch that was the release of The Postal Service’s iconic album Give Up (Gibbard’s collaboration with Jimmy Tamborello) and of course, Death Cab For Cutie’s Transantlanticism a few months later. Purely on the exposure front, it seemed Death Cab For Cutie had officially arrived. The question quickly became, what would Gibbard and the band do now that they had.

Surprisingly, the answer was to leave their indie record label (Seattle’s Barsuk Records) to sign with a major (Atlantic Records no less) and ditch the comfy confines of their home town to go off and record a new album in the isolated wilds of Massachusetts. Perhaps even more surprisingly, that unexpected approach worked, with Death Cab For Cutie re-emerging in 2005 with their strongest album to date.

Titled simply Plans, said album featured a collection of songs that pushed the band’s music into bold new sonic territory with a more polished sound that somehow still proved devoutly faithful to their crunchy, indie rock origins. It also found frontman Ben Gibbard plumbing new depths lyrically, crafting songs that stirred the soul as much as the intellect, and melodies as enchanting as they are infectiously catchy … songs so meticulously crafted and lovingly rendered that they temporarily earned Gibbard mentions among the greatest songwriters of the era.

Now, if you clicked on an article about Death Cab For Cutie, I’ll go ahead and assume you know those songs by heart, because one just cannot think about the album Plans without instantly hearing snippets from the likes of “Soul Meets Body,” “Crooked Teeth,” “What Sarah Said,” or “Your Heart Is An Empty Room.” Likewise, I’ll go ahead and assume the very mention of “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” can bring a tear to your eye.

Of course, if you are among the many devoted followers of Death Cab For Cutie, the meteoric success of Plans (it eventually sold platinum, went all the way to #4 on the Billboard 200, and even earned the group a Grammy nomination) was indeed a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. After all, in the space of a couple of years, Death Cab went from the little indie rock outfit that could to the multi-million selling, stadium touring, radio-dominating band that did. ‘Cause it’s never easy when a fan’s best kept secret is suddenly the toast of the world at large.

Bitter pills aside, Plans remains the crown jewel of Death Cab For Cutie’s mostly marvelous catalogue. It’s arguably the album they were born to make. And when all is said and done for Gibbard and his bandmates, it’s undoubtedly the album that will follow them into the dark.

A Cardboard Box for Sharing Music

For the record, Bandbox is all about living up to that, “cardboard box for sharing music” definition. As the focus of each month’s box is hardcore customizability, they’ve taken the opportunity to beef up their killer “Band Dox” zines with more pictures, interviews, and insightful artist breakdowns. Which means readers are set to dive deeper into your chosen artist’s history than ever before.

“Band Dox” #27 takes a peak behind the curtain of one of indie rock’s best-loved, and most enduring acts with track breakdowns, a revelatory interview with Death Cab For Cutie bassist Nick Harmer, and even a ranking of the band’s best 25 songs (which somehow doesn’t feature either “Crooked Teeth” from Plans, or the Codes and Keys classic “Underneath The Sycamore”). But yeah, it’s pretty much impossible to argue the title track from 2003’s Transatlanticism landing in the number 1 spot, ’cause it’s as perfect a DCFC song as has ever been recorded.

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Now, once you’ve digested the info in the “Band Dox” zine and made your peace with that Top 25 ranking, you’re gonna want to take a peak inside the gatefold sleeve keeping your wax all snug and warm as there’s a full lyric breakdown there. I know, it’s highly likely you already know every word of Plans by heart, but just in case there’s any doubt about this lyric or that, the gatefold liner will definitely come in handy.

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As for the vinyl inside, it comes in lovely archival quality inners.

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The Coke Bottle Clear pressing is beyond immaculate.

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And yeah, there’s two of beauties in there.

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And just in case there’s any question, rest assured knowing either will bring that vintage 2000’s Death Cab For Cutie feel to your head, your heart, and your deck.

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It’s the Bandbox You Want, and the Bandbox You Need

Vinyl is here to stay, friends. And if you’re one of the many who’ve found themselves fervently swept up in the madness, you’re already aware there’s a million and one ways to get your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I’d always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, subscription vinyl clubs really are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.

The great thing about Bandbox is that they ultimately leave the choices up to you. So if you’re looking to snag a copy of your fave band’s most popular album, you can do that. But if you’re looking to move beyond the hits and dig deep into said band’s back catalogue (there are several other Death Cab albums to choose from if Plans isn’t your speed, by the way), you can do that too. And if you want to get a glimpse behind the curtain of a band’s career, well, Bandbox is the vinyl subscription for you. So get on board and get spinning today!

A huge THANKS to the folks at Bandbox for sponsoring this subscription. If you like what you’ve seen here, you can head over to the Bandbox website and sign up to have a sexy new Bandbox delivered to your own front door every single month. While you’re there, feel free to check out their podcast and merch section too! And be sure to check back soon to see what goodies the Bandbox team sends our way this month!

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