Death Cab for Cutie

Brainy lyrics are set off with a musical ensemble that’s moody yet subtly shifting in texture, as if the entire band were a single instrument. This casts a spell of doomed romanticism over everything. Vocalist-songwriter Ben Gibbard has a Greyhound station in his brain, where he sends his ideas off to faraway destinations. If both heaven and hell decide they’re full and turn on no-vacancy signs, he’ll follow you into the dark or sit with you in 100-degree heat under a willow whose tears don’t care. It’s realizing that love is being there, watching someone die. The plans are meditations—little prayers to time—on death, distance and degrees of things dissolving, and they’re rendered with a beautiful, vaguely compelling sense of existential dread.