“The New Year” is the Opening Track off of Death Cab For Cutie’s Quintessential Album, Transatlanticism. Released in 2003, the Album has become synonymous with the Early Aughts and Indie Rock. The Album features an over-arching theme of long-distance love.
The Song was one of the first singles released, along with “The Sound of Settling”. It reached #86 on the UK Singles Chart.
“The New Year” by Death Cab For Cutie
from the Album, Transatlanticism (2003)
“The New Year” has been described as a melancholy look at a New Year’s Eve party amid an uncertain future, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie explained that it’s not about him or even a specific person, but the girl in the song is an amalgamation of various women he’s encountered.
In the band’s 2011 Storytellers special, Gibbard said that he often gets visions of familiar character types and places them in different settings when he writes songs.
“This song is about a person who came to me one day and said she wanted to be written about. So it’s not really my story as much as it is hers. The song started out as a folk song, but it had to be ramped up a bit.”
“The New Year” is the opening song from the album Transatlanticism, a fitting “start” to an album, despite it being released in October of 2003, and not January of 2004. Transatlanticism is the fourth studio release from Death Cab For Cutie, and is written primarily by lead singer Ben Gibbard, and produced by Chris Walla.
“So this is the New Year,
and I don’t feel any different.”
That opening line delivers quite a punch, doesn’t it? The Song and that opening lyric speak to that naive side of me that eagerly welcomes fresh starts and the kind of changes a New Year promises. The kind that has the inevitable disappointment that follows close behind because new starts never really live up to their potential.
I know that I for one pin too many hopes and dreams on things like first days and New Years, often set myself up for a fall, and yet, I know I’ll do it again. I’m forever wanting to believe that things can change and that dreams are possible.
Here’s the thing, maybe I don’t really feel different today, but I feel inspired and motivated, and that counts for something.
“I wish the world was flat like the old days,
then I could travel just by folding a map.
No more airplanes, or speed trains, or freeways;
there’d be no distance that could hold us back.”
My favorite Lyric from the Song. It fits perfectly into the Album’s theme of long-distance love, and also speaks to the bittersweet memories I have of my own distance relationship that once meant the world to me. In the end, it didn’t work out. We could never make the world flat again, nor fold the map until there was no ocean or miles between us any longer.
I still vividly remember the day I bought the CD of Transatlanticism at the now gone Tower Records in Costa Mesa. I was on a lunch break from work and felt like indulging in Music, instead of food, that afternoon. Of the purchases that day it was this CD that I immediately tore open and threw into my car’s player, cranking up the volume. “The New Year” washed over me, flooding my senses with a myriad of feelings.
New Year’s had always been so important to me. The long lists of New Year’s Resolutions I was prone to make though had always been a point of personal failure once the year in question began unfolding. There was more than that surface reaction to that First Listen, too. Did I not always hope for something beyond this world at the start of any relationship I’d had with someone new? And, was I not similarly disappointed at some point as the relationship began unfolding?
Is life, like New Year’s, just like that, with expectation and reality never quite matching up? Well, not this year. This year I am embracing the love and happiness I have in my life, and the chances that are out there waiting. There are adventures out there and a continuing love that began in the New Year last year, that defies expectation and defines what love and companionship are meant to be.
So, Happy New Year. It’s okay if you don’t feel different, and it’s okay if you do. Write a million plans and resolutions and pin them up on the wall, or crinkle them into a ball and throw them in the trash. Make plans, or don’t. Just be yourself and embrace the love and happiness that may be out there, and go on as many adventures as you can.