The Postal Service

Give Up (Sub Pop 03) Rating: A-
A side project between Ben Gibbard, leader of the fine indie band Death Cab For Cutie, and electronic artist Jimmy Tamborello, this first album from The Postal Service (so named because both members would mail their contributions back and forth to one another before convening - one would assume - to assemble the final product) became a sleeper hit and one of the most acclaimed albums of 2003. It's easy to see why, as this is an eminently likeable album that features a deft intermingling of electronic, computer generated beats and effects with real live instruments (primarily guitar). A rare feat in electronic music, Give Up is high on human emotions and exudes a real warmth. There are a fair amount of pop hooks and singable choruses as well, with dreamy female backing vocals (supplied by Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and former Tattle Tale-r and solo artist Jen Wood) providing a nice complement to Gibbard's own unassuming vocals. Musically, warm synthesizers, tinkly keyboards, and sprightly beats are key elements within most of these songs, none of which are ever anything less than pleasant. Of course, none of the songs are terribly exciting, either, and several could be considered mere mood pieces. Gibbard's somewhat precious and occasionally awkward lyrics also seem below the high standards set on his Death Cab For Cutie albums, though he certainly has his moments in that area. Aside from the darker, Cure-like moodiness of "This Place Is a Prison" and the intense electronica of the beat-driven "Natural Anthem," this isn't the most ambitious album, either, which some may find disappointing. However, I guarantee that you'll be humming "where I am" ("The District Sleeps Alone Tonight"), "don't wake me I plan on sleeping" ("Sleeping In"), "ba ba ba ba" ("Clark Gable" - yes, the album is occasionally pretentious), and "everything will change" ("Brand New Colony"), while the bubbling synths and sing songy melody of "Such Great Heights" (later ubiquitously featured in UPS commercials) is effortlessly pleasing. My personal favorite, though, is probably the back and forth duet "Nothing Better" (I'm a sucker for little girl vocals), though it doesn't end quite the way I had hoped ("you had your chance so say goodbye"). But really, this collection's strength is in its overall consistency, and pop fans of other duos such as the Pet Shop Boys (who these guys somewhat remind me of) should be able to easily appreciate this album's deftly intoxicating melodies, intimate romanticism, and charmingly low-key yet modernistic approach. The album consists of a very reasonable 10 (filler free) tracks, too, further demonstrating this duos good taste and making me feel that more such collaborations would be welcome in the future.

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