"What Sarah Said" can place some people on the verge of tears after actually listening to the lyrics. The real gut-wrenching lyrics are "I'm thinking of what Sarah said: That love is watching someone die. So who's gonna watch you die?"
That song was used during an adaptation of Everyman, a medieval morality play about who will have your back when you die and face God's judgement. Very much a tearjerking juxtaposition.
It could also be because the image of being in a hospital, literally feeling someone you love slowly slip away from you, can appeal to everyone who has ever been in a slightly similar situation.
And the music video adds a whole new dimension of heartbreak, with imagery of self-harm and mental illness that really amps up the helplessness of watching someone die, and hurt, and no matter how much you love them you can't make them choose to stay.
"I Will Follow You Into the Dark", especially with the video, is absolutely devastating.
Truly one of the simplest, most haunting, and truly beautiful songs ever written.
It even has two videos- the official, which is simple, effective, and creative... And then there's the one that was included in their DVD "Directions: The Plans Musical Album."
"Brothers On A Hotel Bed" can do it for some people, when they are feeling particularly unhappy or needs to write something sad. From the first line, "You may tire of me as our December sun is setting because I'm not who I used to be," straight to the finish, it's a heartbreaking song.
"On the back of a motor bike, with your arms outstretched, trying to take flight...leaving everything behind...but even at our swiftest speed, we couldn't break from the concrete in the city where we still reside" can also be very triggering. The heartbreaking loneliness, despite being with someone, is so powerful in this song...
It's such a subtle song too; that's partially why it's so moving. It's not a big dramatic breakup song, it's tragic in an understated why.
"Summer Skin", which is a beautiful but incredibly sad song about fleeting love.
"On the night you left I came over And we peeled the freckles from our shoulders Our brand new coats so flushed and pink And I knew your heart I couldn't win Cause the season's change was a conduit And we'd left our love in our summer skin".
"Transatlanticism". Especially with the lines "The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your door have been silenced forever more/The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row/It seems farther than ever before". The song can be especially triggering for people who have lost a very close friend.
The repeated lines of "I need you so much closer" starts beautifully, but, as it keeps going, gets much more desperate and hopeless. Just...wow.
"Styrofoam Plates", which is told from the viewpoint of a boy at the funeral of his selfish, neglectful father, can leave many a person in helpless, horrified tears — especially after the last verse ("You're a disgrace to the concept of family; the priest won't divulge that fact in his homily, and I'll stand up and scream if the mourning remain quiet; you can deck out a lie in a suit, but I won't buy it...") - but it isn't uncommon for people to start tearing up from the very first line, either.
It doesn't help that it's so...DIFFERENT than most Death Cab songs. Usually, Ben Gibbard sings in such a quiet, haunting and almost sad voice...and this song is raw ANGER, and when he starts to lose his temper when practically YELLING at his dead father...it can be shocking. Although, this could be explained by the fact that it's not about his father —- but about a friend's dad. Therefore, he maybe felt free to write in a different style — as an outsider
"Someday You Will Be Loved" might be the most powerful song, especially for people who have been dumped. ("You'll be loved, you'll be loved, like you never have known/And the memories of me will seem more like bad dreams/Just a series of blurs, like I never occurred/Someday you will be loved.")
Can cause Mood Whiplash when looked at from a different angle: The narrator is using his girl's potential future happiness to rationalize sneaking out on her now.
"A Lack of Color" can bring people to tears half-way through, bawling hopelessly at it's conclusion. Lines like: "And when I see you/I really see you upside down/But my brain knows better/It picks you up and turns you around", "And on your machine/I slur a plea for you to come home/But I know it's too late/I should have given you a reason to stay" and "This is fact not fiction/for the first time in years" is enough to drive anyone to tears.
This song is interpreted in multiple different ways, but one way of looking at these lyrics is to see it was a song about suicide. Given Ben's fascination with death, this isn't too far off the mark. It also makes it that much more sad.
"Grapevine Fires" might seem mediocre, at first - until you realize what it is talking about. It is about and event that many real people went through.
The videois even worse, especially when the singer's brother/neighbor's girlfriend gets burned up (true story).
Actually, the "based on a true story" part of the song was when the girl danced through the field of graves. It doesn't make it any less sad, though, because it's assumed that at least one person close to Ben Gibbard died in the fires.
Do not listen to "Talking Bird" if you've ever lost a pet, especially a bird. Good luck making it through without breaking down completely if you have!
"Your New Twin Sized Bed" can make many people who suffer from loneliness after having the strong hopes of finding someone break down and cry. Especially where he sings, "It's like we're in some kind of hurry to say good-bye..."
"You Can Do Better Than Me (But I Can't Do Better Than You)", which (although it has an upbeat tune) is about a slowly failing relationship, and the narrator's own low self-esteem/low opinion of themself.
"I have to face the truth That no one could ever look at me Like you do Like I'm something worth Holding on to There's times I think of leaving But it's something I'll never do 'Cause you can do better than me But I can't do better than you."
Their cover of "All is Full of Love" has this too, to a lesser degree. Only two minutes.
Despite the briefness of "Gridlock Caravans," anyone who's had to deal with troubles in a seemingly ideal life will cry at this.
For anyone who's ever completely loved a person, but was scared of commitment: Listen to "Diamond and a Tether."