Considering how sincerely Death Cab for Cutie’s 2005 major label debut comes across, it’s surprising that its conceptual compass is guided by a deferentially dark joke. “How do you make God laugh? You make a plan,” quipped frontman Ben Gibbard to Mix upon the release of his group’s fifth album, Plans. “Nobody ever makes a plan that they're gonna go out and get hit by a car… Essentially, every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time.”

The then-29-year-old was quoting his own lyric, from thematic centerpiece “What Sarah Said,” with that reference to paternal temporality. Perhaps not coincidentally, Plans marked the Washington state quartet’s deliberate bid for the big-time, its first release on Atlantic Records after four critically-hailed releases for Seattle indie imprint Barsuk. Chris Walla’s Edge-y opening riff on opener “Marching Bands of Manhattan” and the poppy whimsy of first single “Soul Meets Body” made that crystal clear.

Photo: Autumn de Wilde

Fifteen years on, this autumnal LP has aged incredibly gracefully. Nick Harmer’s four-string groove lends “Summer Skin” a delightfully hypnotic backbone, while the acoustic ditty “I Will Follow You into the Dark” has endured as the band’s signature tune and one of the defining compositions of the mid-2000s indie rock boom. On the flip side, “Crooked Teeth” finds the band at its power-pop best, while the cathartic one-two punch of “What Sarah Said” and “Brothers on a Hotel Bed” mixes up a mellifluous martini of melody and melancholy.

“If Transatlanticism was an inhale, Plans is the exhale,” drummer Jason McGerr told PopMatters at the time, comparing the record to its 2003 predecessor. He couldn’t have said it better. After years in the background, Plans is that breath of fresh air where Death Cab for Cutie’s main stage ambitions became reality. And the man upstairs wasn’t laughing.

We're honored to offer the 15th anniversary edition of Plans as a Bandbox Exclusive. It's on coke bottle clear vinyl (the first time it's ever been pressed on colored wax) and comes with a 16-page, full-color Death Cab for Cutie zine!