Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard was born in the Washington city of Bremerton and has spent much of his adult life in Seattle. Even when he moved to Los Angeles in 2009, after marrying actress Zooey Deschanel, he kept a house in Seattle, and Gibbard moved back there after his 2011 divorce.
This requiem for an ever-disappearing urban skyline was inspired by the rapid changes to Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, due to the influx of workers for companies like Amazon, making it feel increasingly foreign to the Death Cab singer. Gibbard explained how he'd come to realize that so many of his memories are tied to the lay out of the metropolis.
"When that geography changes, it's as if you're not only coming to terms with the passage of time, but it's as if you're losing those people and that time in your life all over again," he said. "Cities are in constant flux, and I'm not claiming victimhood in this, but the speed at which Seattle is changing, and people of color and creative communities are being pushed out, is alarming."
Gibbard has touched on the subject of geographic memories before in his music. His 2012 solo single "Teardrop Windows
," for instance, was inspired by his feeling of homesickness for Seattle after moving to Los Angeles, especially the city's Smith Tower.
Death Cab for Cutie made their debut television performance of the single on the June 21, 2018, episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They followed that performance with a headline set during Seattle's Paramount Theatre 90th Anniversary Celebration during which they performed this song.
The song samples Yoko Ono
's "Mindtrain" from her 1971 album Fly
. Gibbard told NME
he purposely chose to borrow from one of Yoko's tracks as he's on a crusade, "for people to actually spend time with her music before they feel like they know what it is, because her music spans a much wider spectrum than people give her credit for."
The lyric video features Ben Gibbard flipping through the track's lyrics in front of a new construction site. The visual, which was shot by Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nick Harmer, nods to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues
" promotional clip, which pioneered the holding-cards-with-lyrics style of video. The format was later used by INXS for their "Mediate" single and parodied by Weird Al Yankovic's for his track "BOB
The song's music video shows Ben Gibbard walking through a city that gets increasingly crowded. He observes the passersby as their outfits change to a modern style. The clip was directed by Alex Southam (Alt-J, Mumford & Sons). Gibbard explained the thinking behind the visual's concept:
"What I just become enveloped by people? That's what it feels like living in a city that's seen its population explode and shift over time. We played with the visuals so at the start of the video people are dress in '50s garb, then over the course of the video the signature look changes to the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, then ends with this scene where everyone is on their phone and I'm just disappearing into this crowd."
Gibbard added: "This is our worst nightmare. Collectively, this drives us all insane – walking down a busy street in the city, with people looking at their phones and not paying attention. Like, walking and texting. I know I sound like a Luddite, but it's super annoying."