Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie's voice and resident wordsmith, is the best lyricist of the past decade -- although the insufferable indie-rock glitterati might argue that the title belongs to Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, who holds a degree in creative writing. While Meloy's hyper-literate prose is certainly impressive, the songs are hardly as resonant -- especially for listeners who are not quite as erudite. Meanwhile, Gibbard's lines are just as painstakingly well-crafted -- the guy's verses are written out in complete sentences, for chrissakes -- and his songs, which are poignant, tangible tales of heartbreak and alienation, are imbued with a consistently gut-wrenching pathos. Granted, Gibbard has been phoning it in a little since his moonlighting stint with the Postal Service: Plans, Death Cab's major-label debut, fails to match the brilliance of 2001's The Photo Album and is more on par with last year's spotty Transatlanticism. But even when he's half-stepping, Gibbard is light-years ahead of just about everybody else.
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