On Tuesday night, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and singer/actress Zooey Deschanel announced they had decided to end their two-year marriage. It’s a split that was not only unforeseen, but decidedly sad, too. After all, the pair were basically the go-to indie couple, especially with the recent separation of alt-rock figureheads Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.
Given the rather expansive back catalog of heartbreakers Gibbard and Deschanel have penned over the years for Death Cab and She & Him, respectively, we’re greeting the news with an exceptionally weepy playlist of their saddest songs. It’s a rather somber day, so why not offer up some appropriate tearjerkers?
“405”: Gibbard’s hazy rumination on a (somewhat) long-distance relationship gone awry. Mistrust, lies, desperation … it’s the rare song that’s honest (or smart) enough to admit that more often than not, distance does not make the heart grow fonder.
“Army Corps of Architects”: A crushing Death Cab tune that details love’s collapse through an extended engineering metaphor (“Call in the Army Corps of Architects/ To flatten the skyline and begin again”), it finishes with a typically boozy kiss-off (“So bring the discrepancies, I’ll pour the drinks”) before fading out with an extended, extra-sad instrumental. Uplifting, it is not.
“I Will Follow You Into the Dark”: Gentle acoustic number that’s become a sing-along staple of Death Cab’s live sets, it’s about loving someone so much that the hereafter seems like a mere afterthought. A beautiful sentiment, one that more often than not, never gets the chance to reach fruition.
“The Ice Is Getting Thinner”: Harrowing Narrow Stairs closer that documents the gradual, sad deterioration of a relationship (“There was little we could say/ And even less that we could do/ To stop the ice from getting thinner/ Under me and you”) and all the hopelessness that goes with it. Try not to get goose bumps during Chris Walla’s winsome, winding guitar solo in the middle. It’s impossible.
“If You Can’t Sleep”: Haunting She & Him tune that brims with the promise of true love and wrestles with the specter of separation (“If you can’t sleep/ I’ll be there in your dreams”), it’s a lullaby in more ways than one.
“Sentimental Heart”: Another She & Him selection, this one pairs bright instrumentals (trilling strings, shiny piano chords, soaring vocal harmonies) with lyrics that are very much about the aftermath of a brutal breakup and the rather daunting task of attempting to pick up the pieces.
“Someday You Will Be Loved”: This Death Cab tune leaves us on a (relatively) optimistic note of future love. But no matter how hopeful the lyrics appear to be (“You may feel alone when you’re falling asleep/ And every time tears roll down your cheek/ But I know your heart belongs to someone you’ve yet to meet”), it’s hopeless to convince the newly heartbroken that they will ever find love again.
“Stay Young, Go Dancing”: A Death Cab song that Gibbard seemingly wrote about his relationship with Deschanel, it opens with him very much at ease with her in Los Angeles (“Life is sweet/ In the belly of the beast”), a town he had very vocally disparaged on the old track “Why You’d Want to Live Here.” From there, it goes on to examine the joy of being with the one you love and staving off the mounting uncertainties of the future simply by believing. And dancing.
“Steadier Footing”: A deceptively simple song about wanting to express your love, yet never really having the guts to rise to the occasion, it runs less than two minutes, yet still packs an emotional wallop, a tact Death Cab would employ with similarly crushing effect on the Narrow Stairs track “You Can Do Better Than Me.”
“Transatlanticism”: Quite possibly the long-distance relationship song to end all long-distance relationships, it finds Gibbard openly pining for the love he’s separated from, and cursing the great expanses that keep them apart. The fact that it builds to a crashing crescendo and an open-hearted plea (“So come on!”) only makes the inevitability that much tougher to handle.
“Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”: Decidedly upbeat She & Him song that’s really about throwing yourself at a love who may or may not be interested in returning the favor. Its positivity (“I think you’re just so pleasant/ I would like you for my own”) belies the rather sad desperation contained within.
What did we miss? Share your Death Cab and She & Him playlist suggestions in the comments.