Review Summary: A fluid and hugely poignant hybrid of the warm and the mechanical.
The clicks and beeps of electronic music are in most instances detached from the sort of emotional outpouring with which Ben Gibbard concerns himself as frontman of indie-pop showstoppers Death Cab for Cutie, so when he announced he was recording with producer Dntel, famed for that exact brand of computerised atmosphere, heads were bound to turn. But any fears that Gibbard would be swallowed beneath the static and recurring beats prove at best unfounded, at worst disingenuous, for what Give Up
evidences is that truly talented songwriters can stamp their authority on even the most unexpected of musical niches.
Far from a re-alignment of Gibbard's vocal and lyrical sensibilities to suit the genre, his collaboration with Dntel as The Postal Service sees him effortlessly translate those soundscapes and techniques into the same heartfelt and gorgeous songs that he writes with his full-time band. He holds the same cutting observational streak, the same ability to convey moods and mindsets; he's, incredibly, largely unmoved by the walls of binary that surround him. Defiant in his romanticism on mega-hit 'Such Great Heights' and his anti-romanticism on 'Nothing Better,' relatable in his idealism on 'Clark Gable' and his defeatism on 'This Place Is A Prison.'
Clearly, though, the end product is not a Death Cab for Cutie record, however much Gibbard maintains his pensive tack - in fact, the result is something considerably unique. Dntel's appreciation of the tone of Gibbard's songwriting is amply evident in the piano flourishes of a cute song like 'Such Great Heights' and the Radiohead-like screeches in a song as difficult and ambiguous as 'Natural Anthem.' Nothing about Give Up
is homogenous, and the diversity owes easily as much to Dntel's varied and befitting moulds as Gibbard's inherent fluidity as a writer.
The Postal Service's Give Up
is a warm project, a welcoming front door into the world of electronic music for those more accustomed to acute displays of emotion, and an album which fantastically blends two contrasting sounds to incredible effect. Gibbard would return to work with Death Cab, sneaking back to this area of the musical spectrum only for singles and to record the superb 'Couches In Alleys' with Styrofoam, and Dntel would fall back into his own projects, but Give Up
remains a monument to the capacity for brief but dynamic collaborations to make a mark on the landscape.