Vinyl: Transatlanticism

My emo phase never ended. I remember distinctly a first date I went on in high school with Courtney who I had a huge crush on but we were also great friends. Courtney and I went to Outback Steakhouse and I was really into emo at the time and I guess there was a combination of teenage angst and just general anxiety / depression that I haven’t had to grapple with for the last 12-13 years but I was feeling it back then. Driving to her parents’ house after the date, I chose to sing along to some of my favorite songs. I’m not a singer and she quickly realized that.The date ended with me singing along to some ‘screamo’ on the way home. She surely thought I was insane and possibly unhinged. We did not go out again. I look back at it and cringe but I was 16. No big deal.

Despite now being 36, I still love Emo. I went to an emo only festival back in August. Dashboard, Taking back Sunday, Get Up Kids, Thrice. It was awesome. 12 hours of emo music. I was with my people.

My love of emo started with LiveJournal. A few of us outcasts found solace in LJ. We all didn’t hang out much in school but we all followed each others’ LJ posts. I posted every day and this was around 2001-2003 and the LJ lived separately from my main tech blog. A dozen or so of us in the same high school class would post and tag each other and comment on posts. It was as you expected, angsty ‘the world sucks’ kind of posts and we all supported each other in the comments. It was nice to know that what I was feeling then wasn’t unique. I had others in the same head space.

A LiveJournal feature was to add what you’re listening to. You could just simply write out where you were listening to while writing the post. Nice feature and I guess maybe tag the song or artist on MySpace? I can’t remember exactly. There were some LiveJournal integrations with Last.FM.

Bree, one of my most prolific internet friends who shared history class with me was an emo fan. Through her, I discovered artists I still listen to today. If I could look her up and thank her, I would. Bree would post her thoughts on the day, her apologies to no one and her gripes with humanity….the worldview of a 16 year old. She was always listening to Taking Back Sunday, Bright Eyes, Dashboard, Death Cab, AFI and sometimes, Nirvana.

My first emo discovery was Dashboard Confessional and I played their music on repeat. Previously, I was listening to Pearl Jam, Biggie and Guns N’ Roses. OutKast was always playing on my iPod and it was nice to discover music for me that my parents didn’t know about and the lyrics were poetry versus, what I thought, was lyrics set to music. I felt, for these artists, the poem came first and music second.

The album I really fell in love with in 2003 was Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism. This was not their debut album but it was the one that found critical acclaim and the song Passenger Seat would only help to boost or amplify my melancholy mood which would help me blog and write.


This album will have celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023 and it had been about 5 years since I gave it a full listen. Over the last 12 months, I’ve listened to it a handful of times but I’m flying to JFK and decided to play Transatlanticism in its entirety on a good seat of headphones.

The album has aged very gracefully. I feel strongly and without bias that any young person who doesn’t need a lot of bass or production value could listen to this album’s best tracks and find peace, happiness and maybe even a mirror of their identity and emotions. The record holds up incredibly well and it’s a very good combination of self reflection and hopeless optimism seen through the lens of a young person who is trying to figure themselves out as the world spins around them.

Lightness flows well with solid ambient tones, great lyrics and a mornin awakening, Title and Registration, the classic is a journey of reflection, Tiny Vessels a young person’s anthem especially in a broken childhood. Transatlanticism, a dreamy melodic tune that goes on for 10 minutes with lyrics scattered around the journey then Passenger Seat, We Looked Like Giants and A Lack of Color which should be an EP unto themselves. They’re linked and symbiotic in their imagery and the hopeless romantic love expressed in the lyrics and the melody. If you want a good 8 minute break-up cry, these 3 will do it for you.

It’s a scary and lonely thought to imagine that I’m listening to an album again that I first listened to 20 years ago and while the angst, anxiety, depression and emotions that I felt as a teenager causing me to bond with the album for life have faded, I’m able to, as a well adjusted adult, enjoy the music for the art it is. A play through of Transatlanticism is not a journey in nostalgia but it’s an appreciation for great music, lyrics and also how far I’ve come as an adult. I sometimes look up tickets and consider going to a Death Cab show. Heck, I went to a Bright Eyes show this year and had a great time in addition to the other Emo festival I attended but I don’t attend to act-out and wallow in sadness. I’m there to enjoy the art and sing-along.

Out of every album that I identified with and that grew with me as a teenager, this Death Cab album is the best one. It took 20 years to come around to that reality. I still listen to all of these bands but this album. This is my favorite in that genre. I’ll probably be listening to it when I’m 70.

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