|1. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight|
|2. Such Great Heights|
|3. Sleeping In|
|4. Nothing Better|
|5. Recycled Air|
|6. Clark Gable|
|7. We Will Become Silhouettes|
|8. This Place Is A Prison|
|9. Brand New Colony|
|10. Natural Anthem|
It's the sort of band story that magazines love: Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello exchanged tapes through the mail, sculpting sweet, melancholy trip-hop into this enchanting, low-key pop masterpiece.
It starts off on strong footing with the melancholy, angelic-voiced "District Sleeps Alone Tonight" with its solemn organ opener. The second song is even stronger -- the sparkling, upbeat "Such Great Heights," an adoring love song from a guy to his on-the-road girlfriend. "They will see us waving/from such great heights/come down now!/they'll say/but everything looks perfect from far away..."
With such a great opener, the rest of the album is almost garuanteed to be lackluster. But Gibbard and Tamborello manage to keep the quality up with the delicate "Sleeping In," ethereal "Nothing Better," and the dreamily majestic "Recycled Air" with its backdrop of string-like synth. "Give Up" ends on a slightly darker note with the dark, grittier "This Place is a Prison" and the fast-paced but strange "Brand New Colony," before finishing off with the magnificently cacophonous "Natural Anthem."
"Give Up" was originally recorded in a rather weird way, with Gibbard and Tamborello exchanging packages with recorded CDs inside. Not your typical way of making music, and some might have scoffed at this unorthodox method. But it pays off beautifully -- the melodious poppy sound of Postal Service is absolutely intoxicating. It's a perfect mix of beats, clicks, dreamy synth and sweet vocals. Gibbard's clear voice is a little sad, and contemplative, and is backed up in some songs by Jen Wood and Jenny Lewis.
The lyrics are beautiful, romantic and heartfelt ("I am finally seeing/why I was the one worth leaving..."), often evoking a slightly otherworldly feeling, not tied in with the world as we know it. It brings up dark cities, flying couples, gaudy apartments and places where things are sad and a little dreamy. The keyboard arrangements are shimmering, guitar riffs are steady and solid, and a cluster of other instruments (organ and horn) surface and vanish seamlessly.
"Give Up" both satisfies a musical hunger and leaves you wanting more. Proving that innovation is NOT dead in the music biz, the Postal Service is a fantastic breath of fresh air. Dreamy, a little depressed, but uplifting and sweet.
Electronica and emo are not obvious bedfellows, but the best elements of both are combined skilfully by the dynamic duo. Such Great Heights is a great example - a pleasing and uptempo beat with meta-referential lyrics ("I tried my best to leave this all on your machine, but the persistant beat sounded thin upon listening"). Nothing Better is a terrific boy-girl duet of the classic boy-loves-girl-but-she-doesn't-want-to-know situation, which gains added impetus when you contrast Gillard's "tell me am I right to think that there could be nothing better than making you my bride and slowly growing old together" with guess singer Jenny Lewis' "you've got allure I can't deny, but you've had your chance, oh say goodbye, say goodbye".
A few songs go for a softer tempo, contrasting between the love song Recycled Air ("I've atched the patchwork farm slow fade into the ocean's arms, calm down, release your cares, the stale taste of recycled air" is certainly a fresh lyricism, literally), and the considered This Place Is A Prison looks at the futility of mindless non-stop partying. The album closes with some straight drum 'n' bass, with just a short vocal section (another meta-referential one, in fact), but which time most people's worst prejudices about electronic music will be gone. As a whole the album is not only perfect disposable pop music, but also has some impressive depth and invention - it really covers all bases, and has something for every mood and situation. Can I finish by saying that they've delivered a first-class album?
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