Death Cab For Cutie’s muted, atmospheric Labor Day parade

Death Cab For Cutie’s muted, atmospheric Labor Day parade

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

In the transition to full-on adulthood, people gave me advice about maintaining a healthy work-life balance, managing my finances, and the importance of keeping the interior of an automobile spotless and garbage-free. (The last item in that list may be exclusive to my father.) But what no one ever told me is how easy it is to lose track of a year when it’s no longer regimented by the beginnings and endings of school semesters. Sure, weather’s always a good determining factor there (though even that’s growing less dependable), but in the years since neither I nor anyone I’ve lived with has had any sort of classes to attend, I’m shocked more and more by how quickly each September arrives.

Though it’s not exactly what Ben Gibbard’s singing about in Death Cab For Cutie’s“Summer Skin,” the track does an effective job of portraying sudden-onset autumn in song. One measure, it’s all images of leisure and carefree living; the next, summer has already come to its unofficial end. The third track on the band’s major-label debut, 2005’s Plans, there are themes of maturation to be read into “Summer Skin”—but this is a Death Cab song, so it’s mostly about the lingering memories of a short-lived love. (In that regard, it’s an echo of Transatlanticism’s “Tiny Vessels,” with a time element marked by the bodies of its subjects and its subtle hints that the narrator isn’t necessarily the one who’s been wronged.) Gross as its central metaphor may be—let’s not mince words: these are lyrics that find romance in flakes of dead tissue—I find the track strangely comforting as the days get shorter and the sunsets take on the early-fall hues hinted at in the warmth of Chris Walla’s production. Even without the artificial structures of the academic calendar, the seasons will continue to change, marching forward to the Labor Day paradeof Jason McGerr’s snare drum.   

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