In 2003, Death Cab For Cutie’s lead singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard and electronica musician Jimmy Tamborello (sometimes known as Dntel) released an album of songs they had recreated primarily by mailing tracks back and forth, thus the band moniker, The Postal Service. Late in the process of making their one studio album, Give Up, Jenny Lewis, still a member of the band Rilo Kiley, sang backing vocals on a couple of tracks and Gibbard’s Death Cab bandmate Chris Walla played guitar and piano on several tracks. They toured the album that year, but it was the continued appearance of tracks on soundtracks and covers by Iron and Wine, Ben Folds and others that added to the disc’s shelf-life, ultimately reaching a million units sold 9 years later.
In 2013, when Sub Pop released a super-sized 10th Anniversary Edition of “Give Up,” Gibbard, Tamborello, and Lewis, took The Postal Service back on the road, and even filmed a feature length concert rockumentary at two consecutive nights at San Francisco’s Greek Theatre, that was released in 2014, titled Everything Will Change. Then late last year, the live concert was re-released in CD, DVD and digital formats. The 16 track live album reveals the The Postal Service came together to produce a surprisingly compelling full band pop and rock feel on at least half of the tracks, no doubt aided by some live drums and guitars and the presence of multi-instrumentalist Laura Burhenn on keys and extra backing vocals, that present Gibbard and Tamborello’s songs in an engaging and entertaining live show. It turns out to be a timely release—even with 17 year old songs recorded 7 years back—in this unique time when we’ve had to forego live concerts.
“Who here has their heart taken out of their chest and stomped on?” says Gibbard introducing “Nothing Better,” a song that recalls The Human League’s synth-pop hit, “Don’t You Want Me?” with Lewis’ character bursting the male singer’s romantic bubble. Gibbard’s now recognizable poppy melodicism seems to thrive nicely set alongside Tamborello’s lush electronic orchestrations, with only the occasional devolution into sounds reminiscent of classic video games (see the intro to the finale, “Brand New Colony.” Generally, I find a lot of energy in those songs where Lewis’ countermelodies provide a nice foil to Gibbard’s lead, as in the opening “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” Given the limit of only one studio album to rely on, it’s interesting that band chooses only one cover, “Our Secret” by the Olympia, Washington band, Beat Happening. But the concert is smartly paced, with The Postal Service’s biggest single, “Such Great Heights” delivered smartly in the penultimate position, followed by the noise-fest opening of “National Anthem.”
Gibbard and Tamborello’s pre-band single, “(That Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” provides the first to two encores, given the sold-out crowd exactly what they wanted. There’s a time-capsule quality to this work, given that the band’s brief tenure never allowed for creative development or fresh influences to spawn evolution over a longer history. So you definitely gotta have a thing for retro synth-pop to get The Postal Service, but all things considered Everything Will Change is delivered on time.
Brian Q. Newcomb
For more of Brian Q. Newcomb’s music reviews, check out The Fire Note
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