Track of the Week: “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie

Track of the Week

I selected this track for two reasons: firstly, it is a contemporary song, unlike last week’s selection; secondly, it proves that you can make great music without showing off.

Let me expand on that second point for a moment. So many of us guitarists have this goal of being the best guitarist around. Being the best is a noble pursuit in competitive endeavors like sports. But words like “best” have very little value inside the context of art. And like it or not, you are an artist now. Your goal should be to create compelling music. “Be listenable,” as John Mayer says. Stop trying to impress everyone and just play something that people like. Most people don’t like show-offs. I’m just sayin’….

“I Will Follow You Into The Dark” from Plans is a great example of how compelling guitar can be without the bells and whistles. There aren’t any effects on this track. No distortion. No fret-tapping. Just Ben Gibbard singing and finger-picking his acoustic guitar. Before Gibbard formed Death Cab For Cutie, he released an album called You Can Play These Songs With Chords. That’s what I mean. Gibbard isn’t trying to impress people with his guitar playing. Rather he is trying convey the spirit of his music through his guitar. And what a haunting spirit it is:

Keep in mind that there are only two barre chords in this song. The rest of the chords are the simple, open varieties. Many times, simpler is better and it really shows here. Can you imagine any guitar tricks added to this song? They would ruin the intimately sorrowful mood that Gibbard and his guitar convey.

This song reminds me that the guitar is a musical instrument, not an ego-enlarger. Play music because you love it and people will want to listen. It’s as simple as that.

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