Transatlanticism has been on my iPod since about middle school. The Death Cab for Cutie frenzy started around then, I think. Yes, the days of my over-achieving, piano-playing, well-rounded innocence. “What Sarah Said,” was my first intrepid adventure on the piano, something colloquial and fulfilling in its non-classical-off-the-beaten-path route. “What Sarah Said" launched me into a Death Cab obsession that would last, apparently, until college
What set Transatlanticism apart for me, was that I revisited it at different stages of maturity. In many ways, it is like reading your favorite childhood book over again, finding new truths that you did not understand at a younger age. I have played this album on repeat, on and off, throughout the past eight years. I go back to it in spurts of nostalgia and desires for introspection, finding, over time, new sentiments that I have now experienced and understand.
In one of my City and Regional Planning classes, where we study cities on a wider global context, a brilliant planner expounded upon the idea that the most meaningful cities are not those which necessarily provide an outstanding place, but can create an essence of time. Transatlanticism grants me such a gift. It reconstructs time. Isn’t that what we are all so hell bent on? Controlling time, slowing it down, speeding it up, making sure we can wring it for all it is worth? Time pushes forward at its pace: the most immovable object and unstoppable force. Time is on its own watch.
This album has given me, time and again, an opportunity to find a loophole, in more ways than one. “Expo ‘86” traipses through time in itself. It brings you back to those moments in childhood that would later become meaningful metaphors in adulthood. Sliding down those terrible metal slides on the playground that would squeak the underbelly of your thighs painfully but even more frustratingly because you could not gain the whoosh! momentum you wanted so badly. Or waiting in line impatiently, tempted to leave for a distraction, but aware you would lose your spot. And now, we have so much more to lose if we leave that spot in line. For coffee before class, for office hours when you really need to pee, or for someone when the potential of another is at stake.
The timelessness seeps into those fulfilling moments when you can look back and realize that time has elapsed. It’s like watching a digital clock for the moment the digits shift, but being so impatient you look away, never getting to pinpoint the moment time has elapsed. Music sometimes give you the immortal opportunity to turn around and realize years have lapsed and you have accrued the experience of heartbreak and the experience of causing that in another. “Tiny Vessels” and “We Looked Like Giants” bring to forefront the physical and emotional power you gain in maturity, in relationships. Independence and autonomy can be as beautiful as they can be destructive, providing you with the utensils to assemble a deeper connection through intimacy or shatter your image to another through mere corporeal interest. You have procured an unmatched capacity for sentiment but also a human propensity to err, with the emotion of others at stake.
The little treasures in songs are the moments that they reconstruct for you. You can close your eyes, or not, and there is a dome of paint that drips around where you stand, encapsulating the exact time of day and smell of the moment it gives you a chance to relive. But more importantly, it brings back that person.
I’m sure you have that fallback song, the one that you shouldn’t listen to because it will open Pandora’s box. Again. But you hold onto for old time's sake. “Passenger Seat” is my deliciously hedonistic pleasure. Almost so slow it makes me restless because I want to experience it all at once as if in one gluttonous gulp, but so satiatingly patient as each piano note reconstructs an element of the memory. A night sky that can’t be replicated well enough by a photo because only a fresh stroke of indigo paint could really do it justice. The rate at which the small Subaru vestibule spattered along. Counting the stars. Feet on the dash, as if grounding the moment so it would be tied down, immobile and forever cherishable. In the passenger seat on the way to Boston.
“Title and Registration” was one of my first ventures at the guitar. I'd love to say it sounded like a song, but I was proud enough knowing that if someone fast-forwarded it or sped it up, it would sound mildly similar (and that’s probably a generous statement). What really shifted an internal gear of mine was finally comprehending the holistic essence of the song: not just a man stuck in his car, but a man reliving memories, broken down with his car. Memories of a title and registration and a label, which didn’t quite cut it. The moment of letting go. Making it okay to reopen those wounds in thought, trying to drive off the shoulder of the rode not with a ticket, but a reflection and recollection of what not to do the next time.
Transatlanticism has in many ways given me a god complex, thinking myself lord over impermanence, omnipotence and omnipresence. I can playback, skip forward, pause, rewind a line, mourn the future, anticipate the past and repaint scenes in such a way to make them last. And mine.