Ben Gibbard / Andrew Kenny

Home, Vol. 5

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Much more than his pleasant but non-essential side project with Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel and Figurine (as the Postal Service), this solo split LP is the place for Death Cab for Cutie fans who want more of singer/songwriter Benjamin Gibbard's best. Just as Death Cab's fabulous Transatlanticism concludes sweetly with the solo acoustic beauty "A Lack of Color," Gibbard serves up four more here, in that direct, moving, voice'n'picking mode feel that's as sneakily powerful as his full band. Rarely does one get closer to the soul of a great musician than when he's recorded so naked and direct, and these four typically arch songs reach out at you as if guided by voices. True, the concept of this series is adhered to; like previous installments featuring Damien Jurado, Bright Eyes, Britt Daniel of Spoon, the Anniversary, and Les Savy Fav, Gibbard contributes three of his own compositions loosely based around the meaning of home (always a concept that's a little heightened for musicians, who are so rarely there) and then covers a song by his match on Home, Vol. 5, Andrew Kenny's American Analog Set's "Choir Vandals." On the premier track, "You Remind Me of Home," he draws the analogy in stark terms: "The foundation is crumbling/Becoming one with the ground/While you lay there in slumber/You're wasting your life," And by track two, "Carolina," he's packing and leaving. These are not happy, throwaway, not-A-list ditties, these are Gibbard getting his teeth into relationships that aren't lasting (much like home, they can be elusive) as ever, and it's hard not to keep from hitting the repeat button after these short but striking songs conclude much too soon. And though Kenny's writing has not had quite the emotional range, impact, or insight of Gibbard's (no shame, that), his use of deliberate stillness and long pauses between brushes of his own sonorous acoustic create its own thoughtful mood. This works well for his lighter, more lullaby-ish, humming voice; see the spooky "Church Mouse in the Church House." Besides, anyone with the taste to take on Death Cab's "Line of Best Fit" from 1998's Something About Airplanes and make it sound as if he wrote it himself, in that same patient, chilling, chiming and ringing style, knows a thing of two about the possibilities of stripped-down songcraft.

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