Quintessential Albums :: Give Up :: The Postal Service

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Give Up :: The Postal Service
Quintessential Albums

A Little History:

Give Up is an album by the electronic pop duo The Postal Service, which was released on February 19, 2003. Give Up was the second Sub Pop Records release to receive platinum status, and was Sub Pop’s best selling album after Nirvana’s Bleach. Give Up peaked at # 114 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Album Chart during its initial release. The 2013 10th Anniversary re-issue of Give Up peaked at # 114, in April 2013.

As of January 2013, the album sold 1.1 million copies.

The Postal Service began as a side project between electronic music artist Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard, the vocalist from Death Cab for Cutie. They had previously worked together on a track on Jimmy Tamborello’s Dntel album, Life Is Full of Possibilities, entitled (This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan.

Gibbard and Tamborello  worked on the album separately; in December 2001, Tamborello sent a CD-R of electronic music to Gibbard, who added melodies and wrote lyrics. He then added drums, guitar and keyboards at Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla’s recording studio and sent the CD back to Tamborello. This process of mailing each other their work on the album continued; after ten months and two trips by Gibbard to Los Angeles to record vocals, the album was completed. The group called themselves “The Postal Service” because of this method of trading ideas. Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis provided backup vocals after being cold called by Gibbard, who knew her when Rilo Kiley was on the same label as Death Cab for Cutie.

Give Up primarily deals with themes of love, as well as fame, history, and friendship. Clark Gable is about Gibbard making home movies with an ex and  Nothing Better is a duet between a couple about to break up. Nothing Better has been compared to The Human League’s hit break-up duet, Don’t You Want Me?, and Gibbard himself has confirmed that Don’t You Want Me? was the song’s inspiration. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, Brand New Colony and This Place Is a Prison were the only songs that bordered on autobiographical. Gibbard has been quoted as saying that Such Great Heights is the only song he has ever written that was positive about love.

Give Up, has been described as a throwback to the eighties New Wave genre.

Give Up was released February 19, 2003 on Sub Pop in the U.S. It was later released in the UK on April 23, 2003. As of December 2007, it had sold over 900,000 copies. It was awarded a platinum certification on October 4, 2012.The album led to three singles; The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, Such Great Heights and We Will Become Silhouettes, of which only We Will Become Silhouettes charted, reaching # 82 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The band toured the U.S. from April to August 2003, including Jenny Lewis in the line-up for all but one of the performances. Lewis provided vocals as well as guitar and keyboards. In the sole performance that Lewis missed, a festival in Spain, friend Joan Hiller sang and Chris Walla played her guitar and keyboard parts. Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nick Harmer was in charge of the tour’s visuals. Tamborello later said in an interview that Gibbard had been nervous about touring, as the audience may have been bored by what they saw as “a guy with a computer onstage“. This was partly the motivation for using visual effects such as videos and lights, which included small films for each song.

The Postal Service 2013 Band Photo

What Makes This “Quintessential” In Three Sentences:

Every song, from start to finish, tells a story of love, loss, and connection. From the bright and shiny, hope filled beginnings of Such Great Heights, to the complications of long distance in The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, to the give and take of hurt and heartache of a break-up in Nothing Better, and after even, the exes attempt at friendship in Clark Gable. There are other stories, too, of fame and loneliness and isolation, and the roller coaster of emotions that make-up the human experience, it is all right there in this album. For me, this album signifies artistic collaboration, too, something I strive to promote, cheer on and embrace.

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My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

I’ll wear my badge,
a vinyl sticker with big block letters adherent to my chest,
that tells your new friends I am a visitor here,
I am not permanent.”

2. Brand New Colony

“I‘ll be the phonograph,
that plays your favorite albums back,
as you’re lying there,
drifting off to sleep.”

3. Clark Gable

I’ve been waiting since birth to find,
a love that would look and sound,
like a movie.”

4. Nothing Better

I feel I must interject here,
you’re getting carried away feeling sorry for yourself,
with these revisions,
and gaps in history,
so let me help you remember.
I’ve made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear,
I’ve prepared a lecture,
on why I have to leave.”

5. Such Great Heights

I am thinking it’s a sign,
that the freckles in our eyes,
are mirror images,
and when we kiss,
they’re perfectly aligned.”

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