"Give Up" - The Postal Service
Foreward - This is not a techno album. Please excuse the few references.
It was bound to happen sometime, thank God it actually worked. Indie bands have dabbled in techno for years, spicing up arrangements with drum machines and synths, though never going straight into techno. Then Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie threw convention into the air and collaborated with Jimmy Tamborello of DNTEL and created this by-mail project, a marriage of indie pop lyrics and 80's synths. Anything Gibbard does gets me crazy excited anyways, but the fact that they are using Duran Duran instrumentation justs puts this thing over the top.
Probably since they swapped tracks by mail (hence the name) and Gibbard recorded his vocals back home in WA, his vocal sound is identical to any DCFC album, which I thought was interesting. I guess you find a good mic you don't want to change.
The album starts out with "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," by far the most impressive track. The lyrics are intellegent and don't dive into a sophomoric level, as is the tendency later on, and the underlying vinyl-popping gives a sublte warmth. I don't know what to think about "Such Great Heights," musically, it is superb, lyrically it sucks. If NSYNC sang this they would have a huge hit. "Sleeping In" is fine, lyrically wondering how the world would be if "everything was exactly how it seemed," and I laughed when I heard "no concerns about that world getting warmer/people thought that they were just being rewarded" since I'm not a big Global Warming fan. I'm a big fan of "Nothing Better", easily the catchiest melody on the record. Despite other reviews I've read that disparage the vocals of Jen Wood on this song, I think the duet is great. "Clark Gable" marks a return to more intellegent lyrics, thankfully.
Unlike many techno songs, it's not hard to identify these songs based on their instrumentation alone, and this disc gets props for not falling into a rut. For some reason, they threw a DCFC song on here. I'm not joking, there's live drums and everything. It has the basic techno form for the first minute or so, but "This Place is a Prison" easily could have found a place on "The Photo Album." I guess it's a break from the usual fare, but its inclusion is puzzling.
I love the cheesy synths at the beginning of "Brand New Colony" for no real reason at all. I just wanted to write that. It's a good uptempo song to counter "This Place.." "Natural Anthem" gives Tamborello a chance to go crazy for the first half of the song, something I wish he had more room to do. The lyrics are extremely disapointing. I've come to expect more from Gibbard, intellegent thought out full sentence stuff, instead of "I will write a song for you, blah blah," crap that accompanies this song. There are many times on this record that Gibbard does write outstanding stuff, but the few that fall short really leave you grasping for something more.
Overall this was a great collaboration, and something to tide me over until DCFC releases their next album. I think it would be a good album for people who sometimes shy away from the off-broadway fare of regular indie music since it is pretty accesiable record and maybe get them interested in more challenging music. But that's just my opinion.