Ayo Jegede
reviews editor
November 14, 2003
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Transatlanticism

Sir Galahad of the Knights of The Round Table wouldn't be able to handle N.Y. the city boasts a wicked kinetic air and a perpetual clash of sights, sounds, and songs that to even visit the place will result in severe sensory overload. supposing the man did venture forth into the future by some unfortunate circumstance, what would it be like for him? some argue that the idea is too irrational to entertain, but i doubt it's really that simple to discard. what would happen if the very way you thought, felt, and loved was irreparably compromised? what would happen if people celebrated the death of a tradition that was the very core of your perspective? what would happen if, after you had walked the entire length of the earth, an ocean appeared and sucked everything you loved?

Transatlanticism is a detail of punctured equilibrium through the eyes of someone too embedded in familiar geography. Ben Gibbard, who collaborated with Dntl's Tamborello on the remarkable Give Up under the Postal Service moniker, does a wonderful job of articulating and vivifying Transatlanticism's iconography. though quite a few tracks lend themselves to [good] indie-pop hooks ('The Sound of Settling,' 'The New Year,' 'Expo 86'), it's only when the band subdues itself that the real force of the music emerges. 'Tiny Vessels' is coy originally, bursts into a somber wail of guitars, then fades away just as it began. the title track, which takes my vote as one of the saddest love songs written this year, is a detail of love's inability to function when a context doesn't allow it. at over 7 minutes it is the centerpiece for the rest of the album and shows why, besides not being able to comprehend the new environment he's in, Galahad's chivalry will not work to win over the girl he loves.

there are times, however, that the group breaks out of the somber context of failed love in a new age. 'Passenger Seat' is more like a process of recollection as Gibbard's vocals and words show a limited grasp on the same environment knights could not love in, but a questioning nature that didn't make such an environment as nefarious. the album ends with 'A Lack of Color,' what could be seen as an attempt to adapt the new stage of existence which was previously upsetting. in the end the world may change before we are ready to accept it, but we'll have to accept it one way or another. definitely top 10.

Release date: October 7, 2003
Label: Barsuk
Rating: 10.0 / 10

[RMR]