The Postal Service, Give Up
Refreshing and disarming lyrics in the context of glitchy, fluttering electronics
The second-best-selling Sub Pop album ever was practically a fluke — a casual, one-off 2003 collaboration by Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello, mostly constructed by sending tapes back and forth in the mail (hence the band's name). As it happened, the emo frontman and the experimental-electronic knob-tweaker added up to the most interesting new synth-pop band in a couple of decades: Gibbard's heart-on-sleeve lyrics and singing became refreshing and disarming in the context of glitchy, fluttering electronics, and Tamborello's gift for subtleties of timbre deepened the effect of the duo's huge, bold melodies. The earnest, clear-eyed love song "Such Great Heights" has gradually become something of a standard; "Nothing Better," a duet with Jen Wood, borrows and updates the "Don't You Want Me" end-of-relationship he sang/she sang template. As of 2010, there's still no sign of a second Postal Service album (Tamborello and Gibbard are busy with their own projects), but in their absence other bands have tried to pick up where they left off — it's hard to imagine Owl City without this album, for instance.