by Carmelo Martinez

Postal Service

Fri May 2


It's problematic to me how animated and happy Ben Gibbard sounds over the phone. It's early on a Sunday morning and Gibbard, lead vocalist for Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service, sounds far too giddy for a touring rock singer calling in from the road. But then again, he has every reason be excited. The Postal Service was just at number one on the CMJ radio charts; their debut full-length, Give Up, has been remarkably well received, and the band's inaugural tour is shaping up to be a series of one sold-out show after another. As Gibbard modestly puts it, "Things are going very well."

Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello formed the Postal Service after collaborating on Tamborello's DNTEL project. DNTEL produced a stunning record called Life is Full of Possibilities, which combined guest vocalists, with Tamborello's precise background beats. Impressed by their chemistry on "The Dream of Evan and Chan," Sub Pop agreed to fund an exclusive Gibbard-Tamborello project and pay for the postage of mailing tapes from Tamberello in L.A., to Gibbard in Seattle (hence the band name).

The end result of the Postal Service is Give Up--easily one of the finest records so far this year. The teaming of Gibbard and Tamborello is a steady balance of deeply personal lyrics and warm electronics. "We both do a good job of keeping each other in check," says Gibbard. As his voice bobs and weaves through a cacophony of hissed-out digital beats, it's clear to see how the pop music of The Postal Service transcends the stale premise of both indie and IDM music. Sure, there are times when the duo strays into gay dance club territory--I'd be lying if the three dreaded words, "Pet Shop Boys," didn't pop into my head upon first listen--but it's easy to overlook those brief moments. They're lone flaws in what is otherwise a perfect modern pop album. And for that, Gibbard should be pretty damn happy.

Gibbard and Tamborello are currently touring with indie heartthrob Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) on keys/vocals and Nick Harmer (Death Cab) handling the visual aids. The band's live show features a surprise cover of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds"; according to Gibbard, they "ran out of songs." That song has already been covered by both John Tesh and Mariah Carey; Gibbard is quick to admit he's a fan of Collins, but humble enough to say "there is no way we can compete with Mariah."