As Death Cab for Cutie's frontman, Benjamin Gibbard has gotten locked into a certain indie-pop sound that suits him well. On his first solo album, "Former Lives" (Barsuk), though, he shows he can do so much more. Gibbard channels '60s Nuggets on "Teardrop Windows" and then switches to folk ("Lily") and mariachi-tinged country ("Something's Rattling") with ease. He's best, though, in the John Lennon-ish "Duncan, Where Have You Gone," which feels like a lost track from "Double Fantasy," and the charming duet with Aimee Mann, "Bigger Than Love," which is closest to Death Cab's recent work. "Former Lives" is actually pretty good at looking ahead.

 

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BENJAMIN GIBBARD

"Former Lives"

GRADE B+

BOTTOM LINE Climbing out of Death Cab to stretch