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Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 7, 2003
GenreIndie rock
ProducerChris Walla
Death Cab for Cutie chronology
The Photo Album
Studio X Sessions EP
Singles from Transatlanticism
  1. "The New Year"
    Released: 2003
  2. "The Sound of Settling"
    Released: December 26, 2003
  3. "Title and Registration"
    Released: 2004

Transatlanticism is the fourth studio album by indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie, released on October 7, 2003, by Barsuk Records.[1] The band's second concept album, Transatlanticism features a theme set around long-distance love. Three singles and accompanying music videos were released for the album: "The New Year", "The Sound of Settling", and "Title and Registration". The first two singles, "The New Year" and "The Sound of Settling", reached number 86 and 84, respectively, on the UK Singles Chart.

Transatlanticism received acclaim from critics when it was released and has since been considered the band's greatest album. The album charted at number 97 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments of 500,000 copies in the United States. In 2013, Barsuk Records released Transatlanticism Demos, a collection of demo versions of songs from Transatlanticism to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the album's release.


Similar to all previous Death Cab for Cutie releases, Transtlanticism was mostly written by lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Gibbard, with many of the songs co-written with other members of the band, particularly guitarist and producer Chris Walla. Prior to the album's release, Gibbard stated: "...unlike The Photo Album, I feel like this record is definitely more like a proper album. We’ve tried to construct it with transitions of songs going in and out of each other, and I think it's a little bit more expansive than the last record."[2]

The album is the first to feature drummer Jason McGerr, who joined the band earlier in 2003, and features writing credits on the songs "The New Year", and "We Looked Like Giants".[3]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[5]
Alternative Press4/5[6]
Blender3/5 stars[7]
Chicago Sun-Times3.5/4 stars[8]
Mojo3/5 stars[9]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[11]
Slant Magazine4/5 stars[12]
Uncut4/5 stars[14]

When Transatlanticism was released in 2003, it charted at number 97 on the Billboard 200.[15] It reached sales of 135,000 copies in May 2004,[16] and by 2007, the record had sold 530,000 copies, which music journalist Greg Kot judged was "a massive hit by indie-rock standards".[17] On April 29, 2008, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[1] The licensing of the album's songs as music on the mid-2000s television drama The O.C. helped Death Cab for Cutie garner greater popularity;[18] "A Lack of Color" was used on the show, and the band appeared as itself in an episode of the second season, performing "Title and Registration" and "The Sound of Settling" in the show's fictional music venue.[19]

Transatlanticism was met with widespread critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 85, based on 21 reviews.[4] Uncut magazine hailed it as "a record of rare beauty and poise",[14] and Alternative Press deemed it "Death Cab's slowest and most mature recording" with "hidden bits of magic [that] reveal themselves brilliantly."[6] Andy Greenwald from Spin found the imagery of the lyrics strikingly vivid while praising Gibbard and Walla's musical direction.[13] Rob Theakston of AllMusic wrote that Transatlanticism is "such a decadently good listen from start to finish" because of the band's maturity as songwriters and musicians.[5] In The A.V. Club, Stephen Thompson said the record "surpasses Gibbard's other career highpoints", calling it "a lush, impeccably produced, musically adventurous, emotionally resonant examination of the way relationships are both strengthened and damaged by distance".[20] PopMatters critic Christine Klunk said it was a "nearly perfect pop record" whose straightforward melodies and honest narratives extolled the human condition.[21] William Morris from Pitchfork was more critical, lamenting what he felt were Gibbard's more generalized lyrics and less edge to the band's "usually acute divinations".[10] Stylus Magazine's Colin McElligatt said despite his strong melodies, he had regressed as a lyricist and sounded more "asinine" than before.[22] In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau cited "We Looked Like Giants" as a "choice cut",[23] indicating "a good song on an album that isn't worth your time or money".[24]

In 2011, Transatlanticism was named by NPR Music as one of the fifty most important recordings of the 2000s decade,[25] while Rolling Stone ranked it 57th on the magazine's decade-end list.[26] In 2013, Death Cab for Cutie re-released the album, marking its 10th year anniversary with a remaster available as vinyl or MP3 download, including demos for all the songs from the album.[27] In a retrospective piece that year, Entertainment Weekly's Kyle Anderson called Transatlanticism a "classic indie-rock album",[28] while Pitchfork editor Ian Cohen wrote, "few records open themselves up to forge those kind of moments, to be a formative emotional and listening experience, pushing you to feel what you’re thinking (to flip a line from 'Lightness'), daring to be universal enough to allow you to see yourself in it."[29]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Ben Gibbard.

1."The New Year"Ben Gibbard, Nick Harmer, Jason McGerr, Chris Walla4:06
3."Title and Registration"Gibbard, Walla3:39
4."Expo '86"Gibbard, Walla4:11
5."The Sound of Settling"Gibbard2:12
6."Tiny Vessels"Gibbard, Harmer4:21
7."Transatlanticism"Gibbard, Walla7:55
8."Passenger Seat"Gibbard3:41
9."Death of an Interior Decorator"Gibbard2:56
10."We Looked Like Giants"Gibbard, Harmer, McGerr, Walla5:32
11."A Lack of Color"Gibbard3:35


Death Cab for Cutie

  • Benjamin Gibbard – vocals, guitar, piano, foot-stomp and hand clap effects on "The Sound of Settling"
  • Nick Harmer – bass guitar, vocals on "Transatlanticism", foot-stomp and hand clap effects on "The Sound of Settling"
  • Jason McGerr – drums, percussion, foot-stomp and hand clap effects on "The Sound of Settling"
  • Christopher Walla – guitar, keyboards, samples, production, mixing (except "The Sound of Settling" and "Tiny Vessels"), recording, vocals on "Transatlanticism"

Additional personnel

  • Ed Brooks – mastering
  • John Goodmanson  – mixing on "The Sound of Settling" and "Tiny Vessels"
  • Rob Herbst – foot-stomp and hand clap effects on "The Sound of Settling"
  • Sean Nelson – vocals on "Transatlanticism"
  • John Roderick – vocals on "Transatlanticism"
  • Phil Wandscher – vocals on "Transatlanticism"
  • Mike Kezner – sitar, vocals on "Death of an Interior Decorator"


Chart (2003–04) Peak
US Billboard 200[15] 97
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[30] 8


  1. ^ a b "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database: Transatlanticism". Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  2. ^ Cooper, Merek (June 2003). "Death Cab For Cutie". Discorder. Archived from the original on October 27, 2006. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "Art Pop from Seattle's Death Cab for Cutie". NPR. October 24, 2005. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Reviews for Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie". Metacritic. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Theakston, Rob. "Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie". AllMusic. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism". Alternative Press (184): 98. November 2003.
  7. ^ Johnston, Maura (October 2003). "Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism". Blender (20): 116. Archived from the original on November 22, 2005. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  8. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (October 5, 2003). "Death Cab For Cutie, 'Trans-Atlanticism' (Barsuk)". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved December 15, 2016. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ "Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism". Mojo (121): 122. December 2003.
  10. ^ a b Morris, William (October 7, 2003). "Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  11. ^ Tsang, Teri (November 10, 2003). "Transatlanticism". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  12. ^ Cinquemani, Sal (November 13, 2003). "Death Cab For Cutie: Transatlanticism". Slant Magazine. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Greenwald, Andy (November 2003). "Death Cab for Cutie, 'Transatlanticism' (Barsuk)". Spin. 19 (11): 112. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  14. ^ a b "Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism". Uncut (78): 107. November 2003. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  15. ^ a b "Death Cab for Cutie Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  16. ^ Stout, Gene (May 7, 2004). "All hail Death Cab, with good reason". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  17. ^ Kot, Greg (2010). "Do Not Insult Death Cab". Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1416547312. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  18. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Death Cab for Cutie". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0857125958.
  19. ^ Stern, Marlow (August 5, 2013). "Bands Made Popular By 'The O.C.': The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Rooney, More". The Daily Beast. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  20. ^ Thompson, Stephen (October 6, 2003). "Death Cab For Cutie: Transatlanticism". The A.V. Club. Chicago. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  21. ^ Klunk, Christine (October 14, 2003). "Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism". PopMatters. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  22. ^ McElligatt, Colin (October 9, 2003). "Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism – Review". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 13, 2004). "Consumer Guide: MLK Fever". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  24. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). "CG 90s: Key to Icons". Robert Christgau. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  25. ^ Boilen, Bob (November 16, 2009). "The Decade's 50 Most Important Recordings". NPR. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  26. ^ "100 Best Albums of the 2000s". Rolling Stone. July 18, 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  27. ^ a b Thompson, Stephen (October 20, 2013). "First Listen: Death Cab For Cutie, 'Transatlanticism (10th Anniversary Edition)'". NPR. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  28. ^ Anderson, Kyle (October 7, 2013). "Death Cab For Cutie's 'Transatlanticism' turns 10 -- looking back at a classic indie-rock album". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  29. ^ Cohen, Ian (November 6, 2013). "Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  30. ^ "Death Cab for Cutie Chart History (Independent Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved July 9, 2013.

External links[edit]