Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives
If the key to unlocking former lives is regression, Ben Gibbard’s solo debut is perfectly titled: there’s scant sign of progress or advancement in these 12 tracks. Jettisoning the light experimentalism that’s characterised recent Death Cab for Cutie releases, Gibbard offers in its place a comparatively bland collection cobbled together over an eight-year period.
A handful of relatively-strong cuts struggle for air: for instance, Teardrop Windows evokes Teenage Fanclub to decent effect, while Bigger Than Love overcomes its sickly slickness thanks to Aimee Mann’s soulful vocal contributions. But these are very much the exceptions – on the opposite side of the scales are the flavourless mariachi undertones of Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke); the insufferably wispy and wet lyrics to Lily; and the featureless plod of A Hard One to Know, which resembles Rilo Kiley on autopilot. Even these low-points aren’t catastrophic; they’re just a long, long way from their creator’s finest work.