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The Postal Service’s ‘Give Up’ – Revisiting a Millennium Classic

Postal Service
SubPop Records

‘Give Up,’ the debut (and so far only) album by the Postal Service, is a product of its time. The duo – Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and electronic artist Jimmy Tamborello – were never in the same room during the making of the album. They mailed words, music, mixes and overdubs to each other (hence, the band’s name) until ‘Give Up’ took shape. And even though it wasn’t a huge hit back when it was released in 2003, ‘Give Up’ has since become one of the most beloved and influential works of the millennium.

Gibbard and Tamborello, who records under the name Dntel, first collaborated on a 2002 track called ‘(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan.’ The following year they reunited and began working on ‘Give Up’ with help from Gibbard’s Death Cab bandmate Chris Walla and Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley. The 10 tracks that surfaced dipped into 1980s synth-pop for their main inspiration, creating a spiral of hopeful songs about love and companionship in the modern world.

The album’s best tracks – ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,’ ‘Such Great Heights’ and ‘We Will Become Silhouettes’ – layer Gibbard’s plaintive voice over humming synths and whirring machine blips. It’s space-age bachelor pad music updated for the new millennium. It’s also fragile music, balancing on the edge of breaking at times. ‘Give Up’ almost demands late-night, no-distractions listening.

Since its release 10 years ago, ‘Give Up’’s legacy has grown tremendously. The album didn’t make it any higher than No. 114, but it finally went platinum last year. Its influence can be heard in everything from today’s underground chillwave artists to Top 40 hitmaker Owl City, who pretty much ripped off the Postal Service’s entire sound and style. A ‘Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition’ of the album was released in 2013 with an entire disc of rarities, B-sides, remixes and new songs.

Watch the Postal Service’s Video for ‘Such Great Heights’

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