In 2005, Death Cab for Cutie released Plans to mixed reviews. The follow-up to 2003's Transatlanticism, it provided an interesting counterbalance to the previous release. At the time, all I knew of the band was that they were on the OC soundtrack or something, and that was enough for me not to be interested. I was more of a dumbass then, admittedly.
Which means when both of these albums were released, the band wasn't even on my radar. I came to discover Plans in the early part of 2007, at the end of a particularly tumultuous winter for me. I think I started listening to it in March or early April, and my attitude was something along the lines of “let's see what all the fuss is about”. Needless to say, it immediately made an impression–I wasn't sure if I liked it–but I was pretty sure I needed to listen again, and so I did, immediately after finishing the first run-through. Then I started listening to the lyrics, and seeing scenes come together in my head. I think by the third or fourth listen, things were coalescing and I had made up my mind that I liked the album.
In the intervening years, it retained a place as one of my very favorite (and in my opinion one of the most well-rounded and balanced) albums in my collection. Each song is a tiny story, and although that sounds incredibly asinine (duh, all songs are tiny stories) there is a thread of longing, melancholy, and loss throughout them all–even the upbeat ones. It's partly a combination of the time in which the album entered my life and partly the achievement of the band in putting a handful of terrific songs together that hang so well next to one another, but it really does change my emotional state on every listen. And while I realize the inherent bias I may have toward its quality, I do believe as a musician that it's worth looking at, because it's increasingly rare to find a collection of tracks that work together the way these songs do.
If you've never heard it, I would highly recommend a listen. Maybe a few. Give it a little time to take root. I could go on about the individual songs and why they're great, but I don't want to drift into music critic douchenalysis. Conversely, it's the kind of album that makes me want to go make more music, and that's what I need more of in my life.