My 21st Favorite Song of All-Time

is:

“We Laugh Indoors” by Death Cab For Cutie

I’m not going to waste too much time talking about how amazing this band is.  Heaven knows I’ve spent more than enough time trying to do that in the past ten years.  If you’re going to like them, you already do.  But if you have negative, silly notions about the band, allow me to dissuade you of them: they are not “weepy emo”, they are not for high schoolers, and they do not suck.

These are songs for grown-ups.  These are complex, layered songs about the intricacies of adult life.  Some Death Cab for Cutie songs haven’t fully cohered for me until after 20 listens.  There is a lot going on, both lyrically and musically.

“We Laugh Indoors” is a unique entry in Death Cab’s catalogue, but in fact, it would be a unique song in any band’s catalog.  It is, like many songs, about a relationship that has ended.  But it has a musical and a lyrical quirk that send it into the stratosphere for me.  Musically, it begins with an erie, creeping swagger, only to explode in an unforeseen middle section—all the more unforeseen for how uncharacteristic it is of this band.  Lyrically, singer and lyricist Ben Gibbard decides to communicate his obsession with this woman by using repetition in a way I’ve never heard it before.  It’s not a chorus, yet he repeats, I think twelves times, “I loved you, Guinevere.”  It makes the listener a little uncomfortable—almost certainly Gibbard’s intention.

I’ve posted the lyrics below, and below them, the studio version of the song, and below that, a live version that is interspersed with interviews with the band, from the superb movie about their life on the road, “Drive Well, Sleep Carefully”.  Seeing the fire and intensity with which the band plays this song should make believers out of anybody.

Look at his opening gambit here: he likes to imagine that the laughs he and Guinevere shared in the rooms they used to live in are still trapped somewhere under the hardwood floors, and he imagines “peeling the hardwoods back” to let the laughs back out, that he might hear them again.  But look at how he says it:

We Laugh Indoors

When we laugh indoors,
the blissful tones bounce off the walls
and fall to the ground.
Peel the hardwood back
to let them loose from decades trapped
and listen so still.

This city is my home,
construction noise all day long
and gutter punks are bumming change.
So I breed thicker skin
and let my lustrous coat fill in
and I’ll never admit that
I loved you guenivere.

I’ve always fallen fast
with too much trust in the promise that
“No one’s ever been here, so you can quell those wet fears.”
I want purity, I must have it here right now.
But don’t you get me started now.

December’s chill comes late,
the days get darker and we wait
for this direness to pass.
There are piles on the floor
of artifacts from dresser drawers,
and I’ll help you pack.

2 Responses to “My 21st Favorite Song of All-Time”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    Alright I watched it. In all honesty that was the most I’ve ever enjoyed a song of theirs (the number is a low one admittedly), but it’s far from making me a convert. My feelings are pretty much the same and it all comes down to the singer’s voice. I like my singers with deep voices (Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder) high voices (Prince) or just generally dominant (Steven Tyler, David Lee Roth). That’s not to say I can’t appreciate the softer/subtler side of music, but this guy’s voice just isn’t compatible with my tastes. To put it metaphorically I like a singer to break a window, and this guy’s lightly tapping on the window with his fingers.

    I did genuinely enjoy the instrumental breakdown in the middle of it. Like, a lot. Then softy came back on the mic and ruined it for me. Sorry. If Death Cab has any instrumentals please link me to them because I’d like to hear those, but at this moment in my musical interests they just don’t fit in. Happy to give it a go though!

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yeah I was afraid that would be the case, as you had mentioned the voice issue before. They have a few songs that are MOSTLY instrumental, but alas, he always sings at least a little bit! Oh well. Thanks for trying.

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