3/5 Ben Gibbard, the emo pop-rocker from Seattle, is a busy bee. He’s released albums almost every year since 1996 with his various bands, including Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service. His debut solo LP, Home Volume V, came out in 2003. Now, finally, he’s releasing a second album.
The sum of eight years’ work, Former Lives details heavy nights, the ups and downs of relationships and a life spent moving between homes, one of which must be in west London judging by ‘Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby’ – an a capella track recorded on an iPhone. With such a distinctively heartfelt vocal style, Gibbard was never going to stray wildly from the melancholy of Death Cab, but there are differing flourishes. Quirks include the mariachi band on ‘Something’s Rattling’, Aimee Mann featuring in a duet on ‘Bigger Than Love’ and the lively, Shins-esque acoustic riffing of ‘Dream Song’. All these elements are strung together by Gibbard’s lilting falsetto. Overall, Former Lives is a happy mixture of pleasures old and new.