Death Cab for Cutie Songs I’ve Cried To, Ranked

Like a lot of indie-rock heads, I discovered Death Cab for Cutie in middle school and became, in a word, obsessed, throughout high school. If you were emotional and believed yourself to be so vastly different from the people around you, they were the perfect band.

Having grown up listening to a band is a special thing. Songs that I revisit and still remember all the lyrics to. Bobbing my big ass head along to the melody, my large over-ear headphones secured to my head with an unprecedented might.

Death Cab, as some fans shorten it, was a big band for me, just like The National or Linkin Park, or whatever band of white guys I felt so aptly described my current emotional turmoil. I’ve cried to many of their songs, so I’m here today to rank the ones I’ve definitely cried to. Ranking from worst to best? No. Ranking by lesbian energy? Perhaps but not quite. Ranking by the level of despair I felt when I listened? Absolutely.

10. “We Laughed Indoors” / The Photo Album

This was a song I’ll admit I’ve only discovered recently. Sometimes when I listen to an album, I listen from most to least interesting song title, and for some reason, this one didn’t pique my interest. Which sucks because it’s an incredible song. See, with this song, it’s the “I loved you, Guinevere, I loved you, Guinevere, I loved you.” that just fucking gets me! Even in poetry, I’m a sucker for repetition, so repeating these lines again and again really hammers home the wretchedness of having loved someone, loved, past tense.

I cried listening to this song on my five years single anniversary, for what’s probably an obvious reason. Just all up in my feelings grieving old loves!

9. “Scientist Studies” / we have the facts and we’re voting yes

“We’ll leave our sins within the carpet twine.
Our bodies will dissolve the chemicals in due time.”

Definitely cried to this song as a teen wandering the streets of Pittsburgh thinking about how sad my life was, how resonant the lyrics were. Big big wallowy tears on this one!

8. “Lightness” / Transatlanticism

I distinctly remember crying to this song as a teen after big fights with my mom.

“Your heart is a river that flows from your chest to every organ
Your brain is the dam and I am the fish who can’t reach the core”

I always felt so disconnected from the woman that adopted me, like I was in a constant state of rowing toward and away from her, wanting her love and not receiving it. That relationship was a big heartbreak for me because I wanted to be a perfect daughter, and sometimes I could see that she thought I was good, but then that old familiar malice would light the fire in her eyes as she looked at me, and I knew I was in the dog house again.

7. “Cath” / Narrow Stairs

I think this one made me cry just from the storytelling alone. That beginning note Gibbard hits as he sings “Cath!” is like a fucking dagger to my heart, which sounds dramatic but I’m a dramatic broad.

Furthermore, the lyrics “soon everybody will ask what became of you, ‘cause your heart was dying fast and you didn’t know what to do.”

This song came out back in 2008. So picture high school Dani hanging out with indie rock loving boys and chicks and pining for their hearts and not getting the attention she wanted from her drug-dealing locker partner who got expelled. It was a wild time, lots of crying to this joint!

6. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” / Plans

This is another one where the storytelling really got me. Also lyrically, it’s just really heartfelt and beautiful and achy.

5. “Your Heart is An Empty Room” / Plans

Dear reader, my heart WAS an empty room! When I tell you I felt this song in my little vacant chest? OOO baby I was weepin!

4. “A Lack of Color” / Transatlanticism

I’ve done a lot of crying to this one, especially as an adult revisiting this album. Something about the patient guitar and the windscapes in the song really get me. Even before I was really dating and falling in and out of love, this song meant a lot to me. For a long time, I felt that my life lacked color. It was destitute and grey and harrowing. So when the song reaches its climax, and Gibbard sings

“I’m reaching for the phone to call at 7:03 and on your machine
I slur a plea for you to come home, but I know it’s too late
and I should’ve given you a reason to stay”

I’m crying, especially on the high note at “stay.” Like I’ve completely lost myself by that point.

3. “Title Track” / we have the facts and we’re voting yes

This band is so good with one-line lyrics that punch you in the gut, especially as the song nears its end. Like in this one song, we get “my best judgment signed its resignation” and “but call-response overturns convictions every time.”

Of course, this song’s end is where I start to cry. I listened to it when I had started dating a woman that I truly did rush things with. We were talking about buying a house together a few weeks in. We moved too fast, as the song says, making lots of lovely lesbian plans.

2. “Transatlanticism” / Transatlanticism

I know for a fact that you’re probably thinking “how is this not number one??” but stay tuned friends. I’ve cried to this song very recently, in fact, it is a song I put on when I want to cry but my meds force back the tears. This song is so slow and creeping, you don’t see where it’s headed until you’ve reached the climatic destination, and it’s a doozy.

When I cried to this song recently, I was despairing over my big move and how I’m struggling to find community in a new city. I miss my Pittsburgh crew big time.

When “I need you so much closer“ starts, I feel it in my bones, It’s like a spell, repetitive and resounding. This song is also like eight minutes long, and it doesn’t waste a minute. Even in the moments that are just instrumental, you get the best of guitar, piano, and drums.

The song just trails off with “so come on, come on…” and I’m left wondering where we are going, where I am going? The mark of a good song for me is that question of where it leaves me, how am I and who am I after I’ve listened.

“Transatlanticism” is one of my favorite songs ever, favorite title song, too.

1. “What Sarah Said” / Plans

This one gets kind of dark, so bear with me. In 2010/2011, I was trying to find my birth mom and it wasn’t going well. Until it was, and I found her, and then it wasn’t again because I found out she was in active addiction and had been for more than 20 years. As a freshly 18-year-old adult, I couldn’t help but feel like my birth mom had chosen drugs over being a mother, and that hurt me more than anything.

Enter this song.

“And I knew that you were a truth I’d rather lose
than to have never lain beside at all.”

Despite my heartache, I tried to have a relationship with my mom, but she rejected me. I felt abandoned for the second time. It was really messy and a bad year where I did bad things to myself and bad things happened to me.

There’s this part of the song that goes “I’m thinking of what Sarah said.” and my birth mom’s name is Sarah. I couldn’t stop thinking about how she said I was not her family, how that crushed me.

I wept to this song as I went through this process. Drunk, high, stalking around the dark streets at night. Leaving myself in precarious situations. The song ends with the lyrics “so who’s gonna watch you die?”

and I thought, “if my mom continues using drugs, who’s gonna watch her die? Not me.”

But I wanted to be there for her. I didn’t care if she never got sober, I just wanted to be near her. So this song is the one that has meant more to me than any others. Because it just hit me at the right time, you know? It was there when I needed it to be.

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Dani Janae is a poet and writer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. When she's not writing love poems for unavailable women, she's watching horror movies, hanging with her tarantula, and eating figs. Follow Dani Janae on Twitter and on Instagram.

danijanae has written 157 articles for us.


  1. In the same vein (somewhat), “What Sarah Said” always makes me cry. My Dad died in 2015. The lyrics “It sung like a violent wind, that memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds” always get me because in my mind I can’t remember what he looks or sounds like. Like all I’m left with is an underdeveloped Polaroid.

  2. This list is so beautiful and so squarely in my category of interests. The one that makes my cry the most is Styrofoam Plates due to a complicated family situation with my biological father. “Thinking of you, I do every year, when we count all our blessings and wonder what we’re doing here,” will hit me in the gut every single time. Similarly, Tiny Vessels is full of moments that make me teary but this section is just too achingly familiar to me “So when you ask, “Is something wrong?”
    I think, “You’re damn right there is but we can’t talk about it now
    No, we can’t talk about it now”.

  3. loved this and love being part of the cool club of black queers obsessed with sad white man music. & I would absolutely read a companion piece about The National if you have one in you, Dani

  4. Stability from “The Stability EP” was the one that crushed me after a break up! Soo many choices! I am glad these songs were there for you and the rest of us when we needed them! ❤️

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