History Review is a year long series that examines some of our favorite artists, songs, and albums from the last twenty (1993) or ten (2003) years by determining how they’ve aged since we first fell in love with them.
Next week will mark the ten year anniversary of Give Up, the debut album from Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, aka, The Postal Service. With the announcement of a reunion, a new tour, and a handful of new tracks on the deluxe reissue of their one and only album, this one-off side project of a band is once again at the forefront of the minds of indie rock aficionados…not to mention everyone else who’s become enamored with Give Up over the last decade. On today’s History Review, we examine the past, present, and future of both The Postal Service and their beloved lone album.
What the critics said then:
Allmusic (February 18th, 2003)
However, Ben Gibbard’s famously bittersweet vocals and sharp, sensitive lyrics imbue Give Up with more emotional heft than you might expect from a synth pop album, especially one by a side project from musicians as busy as Tamborello and Gibbard are. The album exploits the contrast between the cool, clean synths and Gibbard’s all-too-human voice to poignant and playful effect, particularly on Give Up’s first two tracks…Despite some nods to more contemporary electronic pop, Give Up’s sound is based in classic new wave and synth pop, at times resembling an indie version of New Order or the Pet Shop Boys.
Slant Magazine (Decemeber 4th, 2003)
Give Up, the debut album from The Postal Service (the mail-order side project of Death Cab For Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard and Dntel mastermind Jimmy Tamborello), is an arresting fusion of emo indie-rock musings and DIY laptop electronica. Call it Smart Pop, or semi-Intelligent Dance Music. The album alternates between dazzling, revelatory out-of-body love songs and universally eco-aware ruminations on the state of the world, the binding thread being Gibbard’s often potent stream-of-consciousness and bright, jangly guitars and Tamborello’s infectious ambient house beats, faux strings and videogame bleeps.
Pitchfork (February 9th, 2003)
Fortunately, Give Up overcomes its highly questionable lyrical choices, and the sometimes painful duets between Gibbard and indie folkster Jen Wood, purely on the strength of Gibbard’s consistently strong melodies, which carry far greater impact in the context of Tamborello’s hyperactive electro-pop than they have on recent Death Cab for Cutie releases. And Tamborello’s production gives the intricate precision of Life Is Full of Possibilities a caffeinated overhaul, here forsaking the time-honored glitch of that album for bright, danceable beats.
Why This Album is Still Great in 2013:
The songs on Give Up play like individual vignettes that form a larger, overarching story line. It’s a tale of love and heartbreak and perhaps, at least in our minds, a dystopian future – most likely caused by the absence of love. Regardless of the visuals created in the listener’s mind, Give Up is an absurdly effective album that both envelopes and interacts with the audience. The whirling, breathy loops, bleeps, and bloops coupled with Ben Gibbard’s signature childlike vocals creates a sensory heavy world despite it’s obvious digital roots.
The beauty of The Postal Service’s single album is in its timelessness. Their is a natural quality inherent on Give Up: the beating of hearts; the sound of water dripping that causes anxiety; the fleeing of thoughts and desires like skittering insects. Countless twentysomething’s have been drawn into this world. They’ve enjoyed the album on late night drives, flirty, sexual romps, rainy days on the couch, and numerous other emotive or self reflective moments in their lives. Electro pop isn’t for everyone, but The Postal Service’s warmth through cold computer creations is both inviting and easily accessible.
If The Postal Service never release another album, and this is the record by which we must define their quality, Give Up is an exquisite testament to their greatness.
Consequently, although they remain adamant that no new LP is imminent, now or ever, the band is releasing two new tracks including the one below, “A Tattered Line of String,” with their deluxe anniversary edition due out April 9th.
Interested in seeing them live? Their Sub Pop page has tour dates (and there aren’t many) including stops at two festivals, Coachella and Sasquatch.
Cheers and enjoy.