The Postal Service – Give Up

The Postal ServiceGive Up (Subpop)

Beware: The Postal Service are making it okay to talk openly of love.

Give Up is an album based around desire. Lyrically, Benjamin Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) uses his typically unique, wordy delivery to paint pictures of someone special. The songs all at the least make mention of this mystery girl—some even go as far as to mention that “I’m thinking it’s a sign / That the freckles in our eyes / Are mirror images / And when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned” (“Such Great Heights“). In any other context, the words might seem a bit nauseating, but that’s where the music (supplied by Jimmy Tamborello) makes the difference. Tamborello’s beats are twee enough for I Am the World Trade Center comparisons but complex and dense enough to warrant mention with Prefuse 73. Here, he finds a lovely niche declaring his love of eighties synth pop and new wave; and Gibbard himself responds by doubling the beats with either bouncy harmonies or ambient crooning.

One of the central conflicts of Give Up is the harsh contrast between the distinctly warm and human timbre of Gibbard’s voice and the sterile, overwhelmingly computerized touch in Tamborello’s beats. It’s hard to tell at times whether the album sounds wholly millennial or like my favorite A-Ha material. Either way, the music benefits from that conflict and arises, mood centralized enough for mindless fun and at the same time enough intellectually to warrant coming back to.

Unfortunately, the album does lose steam as it wears on—nothing past the highlight “Nothing Better” manages to come close to the mountain-moving quality of the first four songs—even “Sleeping In” manages to save its awful verses with a chorus catchy enough to stick with you for days. But even at its worst Give Up is a brave attempt at the landmark album IDM is still looking for and that the Postal Service may just deliver in the future (no pun intended). When you reach unadulterated bliss like Gibbard and Tamborello have on “The District Sleeps Alone”, “Such Great Heights” and “Nothing Better”, even the quality of the great work that follows seems lesser.

I can’t understand the critics that bash this record (and others) because they wear their hearts out too much. Love is central to human life, and therefore becomes central to art—resisting it because it isn’t profound enough is to shut out one of the most important reasons to live at all. This album isn’t hindered by its passion, it benefits from it. It isn’t a classic by any means, but it’s the type of album you can get behind—you feel it; over time you wind up growing attached to it, the cute and cuddly Nintendo blips and the interplay between Gibbard and his occasional counterpart Jen Wood. When Gibbard sings “Will someone please call a surgeon who can crack my ribs / And repair this broken heart you’re deserting/For better company?” (“Nothing Better”) and Tamborello eases into a sexy breakbeat, I myself feel my heart breaking.

This album is your blanket, your favorite sweater, your shoulder to cry on and your favorite shower singalong. This album is all of the things and all of the feelings you’re ashamed to tell your friends about for fear of negative reactions. But this album, if given the chance, can also be your guide to being happy, to liberating yourself and realizing that it’s okay to love and be loved and to make it known that you have a heart and yes you do feel. If you’re willing to make that change, you won’t be alone—The Postal Service have already converted masses just like you.

43 thoughts on “The Postal Service – Give Up”

  1. I find Benjamin Gibbard’s voice annoying and whiny. Not whiny in a way that makes him sound passionate, but more in a way that makes him sound full of it. I don’t believe him at all. This album would have sounded much better if he and jen could’ve switched places on the vocals. There’s no second guessing her when she sings. But then again, with these repetitive lyrics, anyone’s voice could get annoying.

    I do like the blips and beats provided by Dntel.

  2. This is the album I have been waiting for half my life. It has everything from beats to the kind of lyrics you always think of yourself but never when anyone’s around to hear them. Great album to cry yourself to sleep to. Beautiful.

  3. This album is one of the most underappreciated ever. It is the perfect fusion between catchy pop (like the best songs of e.g. Ash) and techno. The better quality the speakers are you use for listening to it, the more you”ll be amazed by the way the songs are made up (I have heard new lines/tones for weeks :-). Not rock or techno songs are build up, and Gibbara single song is totally build up according to normal ways either d’s singing exploids all possibilities handed by the melodies. Definately the most original album of this year (and probably of this decenium, i fear).

  4. This album is one of the most underappreciated ever. It is the perfect fusion between catchy pop (like the best songs of e.g. Ash) and techno. The better quality the speakers are you use for listening to it, the more you”ll be amazed by the way the songs are made up (I have heard new lines/tones for weeks :-). Not rock or techno songs are build up, and Gibbara single song is totally build up according to normal ways either d’s singing exploids all possibilities handed by the melodies. Definately the most original album of this year (and probably of this decenium, i fear).

  5. postal service is breaking new ground by making an album using the US Postal Service. an idea that is not all that original but now shows that is works! better music can be made this way. the slow, melow, techno beats are catchie and the duet with benjamin and jen was touching.

  6. Best album from america I have heard for quite somewhile .I am amazed that its just techno u keep banging on about i mean what about the obvious drum and base influence as well as the british garage scene on this album .Its about time America caught up!

  7. This album is absolutely amazing! I happened to love the lyrics for songs such as “Nothing Better”, “Clark Gable”, “Such Great Heights”, and “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”. The music is different and refreshing. This has to be one of my favorite CD’s EVER.

  8. This album was incredible. My friend brought it over and said I had to listen to it. It’s definitely one of my favorite CD’s

  9. i had this beautiful unknown tune on my computer as an un named file… i listened to it a couple of times, asked some friends who it was but no-one knew. so i typed in the lyrics to some music site and it came up as the postal service. woohoo!! i am now very happy and have bought ‘give up’ which is totally ace! makes me dance around and sing in a kind of serene way!!?

  10. “Such Great Heights” now has become one of my all time favorites. It somehow seems to remind me that not only is there hope for the future of the development of simplicity & sencerity in music, but that one day someone may tell me they are missing me to death when I am away. Dare I say, even leave such works of art to guide me home…and not on my machine.

    True blue.


  11. An incredible and beautiful album. The mood it exudes, the complexities and layering of the beats, the sincerity and thoughtfulness of the lyrics – all amazing. I hear Dntel, Jimmy Tamborello’s project before the Postal Service, is also incredible. Check it out.

  12. I heard “The District…” on our local college station, and when I heard “Such Great Heights” I rean out to buy the thing. Even in the Texas Panhandle, we love soulful synth pop. Thank heavens for public indie stations! I was a clubber in the ’80’s, and although Gibbard and Tamborello are reminiscent of the sound, I assure you they’re not deriviative. Very enjoyable.

  13. i love this album.. it makes me sooooo happy. it’s just amazing music, the vocals and everything just flow perfectly and make it so enjoyable. and even better… there’s not one song that i would want to skip past.

  14. I’m a big Death Cab fan. I’m likeing Tamborello’s new sound w/ Jen. I recomend you give it a try if you havent already.

  15. Sweet lord, i haven’t heard something new to me that is this good in a long time. After my heater pipe frozebecause of the -42C weather and i had to shower at a friends house, i got out of the shower and heard some POstal Service and fell in love. i was no longer cold, dark and dank inside.

  16. This is one of my favorite cd’s of all time. I listen to it at least once a day. It is so under appreciated.

  17. This album rules! I hated it alittle at first but it grew on me and now I cant let a day go by without listening to it! Its like new order met early depeche mode. Alomst EVERY song is awsome and I think I have to dissagree with the editor. As the album progresses it just gets better and makes me want MORE!!!!

  18. Just tonight I FINALLY FOUND OUT WHO THESE GUYS ARE ON THIS UNKNOWN CD I’VE HAD AND LOVED FOR QUITE A WHILE. Thank god for Much Music Canada for playing the “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” video on “The Wedge” tonight. MY PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED! Honestly, at first I was a little confused when I first heard it…it was different than anything else I’d ever heard. But here I am, months later still enjoying the album as much as I did the first time I heard it. For me, it doesn’t matter if other dislike it or think its stange and weird music. You could even say their style is of a whole different genre. All that matters is that I’ve found a kind of music that will sooth my soul and keep me happy for a long time. :)

  19. I think the cd over all was just captivating .He painted a very good picture in my mind about him meeting that girl and falling in love with her and him having to move all the way across seas to be with her, really good story! listen to the cd to find out the rest, personally loved it

  20. I’ve read reviews of Postal Service and every one of the reviews undermined the poetic lyrics and catchy beats. These snobby music critics can bite me. This album is one of the best!

  21. How many times do we have to sit and read some stupid album critic knock a band or person down. I just got done reading about 15 reviews on the album and i’m very shocked at how underqualified one really needs to be to have that career. N.E.WAYS the album makes me want to fall in love and always have a happy felling with that person. How many albums have you listened to that made you want to do something like that(i mean this in a good way)Overall just buy the album and you will understand.

  22. By far one of the best bands i have ever heard, or probably will ever hear. I listen to this cd more than twice a day, it has basically replaced all my others.

  23. I first heard The Postal Service when I was driving to work on an indie show on KDVS about a year ago. This represented to me everything I love in the pure synthpop scene and darkwave synthpop genre with just the right fusion of indie vibes.

    I’m normally a fan of the darker German acts such as Beborn Beton or Wolfsheim, but The Postal Service was able to draw me in completely and forced me to surrender to the melodies.

    AND, despite what other reviewers say, Sleeping In has to be the track I’ve repeated most in my CD player.

  24. This album – it just never wears out. The most complete and repeat-listenable album since Screamadelica. But why isn’t the world listening? Who cares?

  25. Incredible !! I’ve had my share of electro-poppy sounds , but this beats everything !! I grew up listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode, and such. Postal Service is like the sum of both squared !!

  26. and i thought death cab for cutie was bad …

    this is the worst record ever, and makes me want to give up on the music, when this is the record everybody is shouting about

  27. Hey I agree with all of you who believe the critics seem to be a bit harsh with this album. The lyrics are incredible and the album is original to the fullest. I am excited now that I am hearing new songs from the postal service are comming out..I’ve heard a couple already and it sounds like there could be another great album on the way-

  28. Hey! i have listened to the postal service for about 1 year and 2 months now and still not a day goes by where i dont listen to “the distric sleeps alone tonight” they are def. my fav band and have an awesome sound, does anyone know where i can get a shirt to rep this awesome band?

  29. Tom Mantzouranis’s review of The Postal Service’s Give Up just skims the top off what is really underneath the true artistic creativity of Benjamin Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello. What has failed to be mentioned is the stark contrast between the upbeat tempo and vocals of each song and the actually, very depressing lyrics. This ironic contradiction creates a dichotomy of feel good sing-a-long songs and heart wrenching love lost-alone- kind of pain. I love it.

  30. Alright, I absolutely LOVE Postal service. This album that they have is just amazing, I love the lyrics as well as the music, they go perfectly together. The whole concept of making great music like that and being far apart, sending the beats and the lyrics back and forth, for some reason seems to enhance my UNDYING appreciation for this stuff!

  31. I’ve been listening to this album for a good 4 months almost every day. Each friend that I’ve shown the music to has gone out and bought the album. They love it! This album is greatly unappreciated and should be advertised everywhere.

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