A Ben Gibbard solo album might not be completely redundant, but even though Former Lives is the first album branded with this indie singer/songwriter's given name, it's not his first solo endeavor. Gibbard operated solo for a while under the All-Time Quarterback moniker and even Death Cab for Cutie grew out of his solo acoustic songs into a full-fledged band. This album gathers together 12 songs written over an eight-year period, and the spaced-out nature of the writing shows in how varied the songs are from one another stylistically. The album starts out with "Shepherd's Bush Lullaby," 47 seconds of a cappella preciousness that quickly gives way to acoustic strums, slick '70s-style basslines, and character sketches of lovesick insomniacs on "Dream Song." Moments later there are the mariachi-themed Western flavors of "Something's Rattling (Cowpoke)" and pedal steel on the '90s alt-rock recall of "Broken Yolk in Western Sky." Aimee Mann shows up to grace "Bigger Than Love" with her smoky vocals, trading verses with Gibbard about nostalgia for lost chances in different big cities. It's one of the album's more dynamic moments, with a big, hooky chorus and some legitimate tension during the verses. The soft rock pocket symphony of "Duncan, Where Have You Gone?" shines with multi-tracked vocals and a borrowed chord progression from any number of '60s AM radio soul-pop ballads.