Give Up – The Postal Service

Give Up

The Postal Service

Sub Pop

2003

Ah, The Postal Service, the collaboration between Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel.  Of course, Gibbard providing the vocals and Tamborello providing the music.  There’s actually some pretty cool stories regarding this project, if you’ll allow me to indulge.  First is the creepy similarities in how these guys look, at least when Gibbard is clean shaven, which isn’t the case now, since he is too busy being balls-deep in Zooey Deschanel to shave.  Then again, who wouldn’t be?  Anyways, the second cool story about the project is how they got their name.  Tamborello produced the musical tracks, who then sent them to Gibbard, who added his vocals, did some slight editing, and then sent them back to Tamborello.  All along the way, the music was sent via the United States Postal Service.  Clever, eh?  So the album I’ll be reviewing here is the only one they’ve done (the second album was a hoax, but there’s been talk of the guys shooting ideas back and forth), Give Up.

Never having listened to Dntel, I can’t make much comparison between the two acts, but I can say that it is clear from the get-go that Tamborello knows what he’s doing.  “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” is the opening track, and Jimmy has engineered a beautiful piece, with Gibbard’s typical high, peaceful vocals on top.  And my favorite chick in indie, Jenny Lewis, provides backing vocals here, and throughout the album, much to my delight.  Mmmm, Jenny Lewis…

Oh, sorry, where was I? Oh yes, “Such Great Heights”, another single released from the album (“District” also was a single).  Listening to this track’s intro in multi-channel sound is pretty cool.  You get to hear the two separate tracks, and it’s really interesting to separate them, and then hear them together.  Gibbard’s vocals here are again beautiful, with some amazing lyrics here.  Furthermore, Gibbard confirmed that this was the only positive song he had written about love to date.  What we end up with is really somewhat of a masterpiece (complete oxymoron, I know).  Of course, more Jenny Lewis definitely increases the win involved here.  One ironic note before I move on:  this song is used in commercials for UPS.  UPS… Postal Service… abuh?!

“Sleeping In” starts off rather slow, and ends up being a rather slow track.  Gibbard’s vocals during the verses sound like he is singing them at the opposite end of a room, or through a very, very thin door.  The lyrics here are again noteworthy.  They talk about how a man dreams how the world is exactly how it seems.  He says how global warming is causing us to swim in November, and how there’s no mystery behind the JFK assassination.  The point here is that he wants to continue to sleep in and indulge himself in this fantastic world.

“Nothing Better” is really beautiful, and not just because it features Lewis the most (and that definitely doesn’t hurt, of course).  It’s about a couple breaking up, where the guy is trying to make it work to any end, but the girl simply cannot do it anymore.  While the idea may sound cliché, it’s pulled off very well.  This song can actually be a real tear jerker if you listen to it when you’re in a depressed or somber mood.  Still, it is a beautiful song, and definitely one of my favorites from the album.

“Recycled Air” has a drastically different sound from the previous four tracks.  Gibbard slows down, and Tamborello gets less complex, and the results are pretty good.  I honestly can’t really think of anything else to say on this song.  It’s definitely good, and I love the chorus the way Gibbard delivers it with Lewis’ backing.  It’s a simple track with a lot to love.

“Clark Gable” takes a bit to get going, although the intro in itself is fantastic.  Once the song finally ‘begins’, we are treated to a song with a dance-inducing beat, but contradicting vocals.  It’s either a song to dance to, or sing along to, but rather hard to do both (ask me how I know).  The lyrics are a good representation of how the movie industry is so falsified nowadays.  For example:  ‘the script, it called for rain, but it was clear that day, so we faked it’ and ‘I need you to pretend that we are in love again’.  But my favorite lyric here (not pertaining to the theme) is ‘I kissed you in a style Clark Gable would have admired’.  Seriously, this song has a lot going for it, and I wish they’d made it a single because I’d have liked to see it succeed beyond what it could do on the album.

Next is the final single off the album, released about 2 years after the album itself, “We Will Become Sillhouettes”.  This is another beautiful song, showing what Tamborello and Gibbard are capable of.  Tamborello really brings the bass here in the music, and Gibbard shows his range on the microphone.  The lyrics themselves confuse me a bit; sometimes, they sound upbeat and beautiful, but others they sound morose and  glum.  I seem to have a penchant for songs with interpretations like this lately.  Either way you see it, as I said before, this is another beautiful track.

Ah, yes, the obligatory song I dislike on an otherwise fantastic album.  “This Place is a Prison” really just doesn’t do it for me.  Gibbard sounds too emo here, and Tamborello’s music just adds to the somber mood.  About halfway through, the music adds some more layers, but they sound like they were taken from a Linkin Park track, unfortunately.  Sadly, this song just isn’t that good.

But, rejoice, for we have repentance!  “Brand New Colony”, otherwise known as the best song on the album©, is now playing!  Tamborello really layers the music well here, with a basic, somber bass track, with upbeat, speedy synth on top.  Together, these really play each other up.  The vocals are on another level from the rest of the album too.  Lewis and Gibbard really shine independently through the track, and on their harmonies, I feel like flowers are gonna sprout and small woodland creatures are going to burst into song and dance.  When the song slows down, it becomes something new, but not something bad.  We’re treated with more Lewis/Gibbard harmonies, and Tamborello breaks down his new tune beautifully to the end.

“Natural Anthem” is the album closer, and it fades right in from the end of “Brand New Colony”.  We’ve got creepy violin-esque synth, heavy bass, and so much more.  If this song doesn’t take away any doubt of Tamborello’s talent, you’re insane.  In fact, just listening to this song now makes me want to investigate some Dntel.  After about four minutes, Gibbard has less than a minute of vocals, with some minor harmonization with Lewis.  I love the both of them, but to be fair to Tamborello, this song is his tour-de-force on the album, and no vocals were needed.  Still, this is a fantastic album closer, and could really sell you on the album as a whole.

So there you have it, Give Up from The Postal Service, a mash-up of Death Cab, Dntel, with a sprinkling of Rilo Kiley for good measure.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until golden brown and what you get is a fantastic side project that can truly rival any of the collaborators’ main projects’ albums.

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