The Postal Service should consider itself the lead candidate for official band of long-distance relationships. Death Cab for Cutie's Benjamin Gibbard (from Seattle) and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello (from L.A.) met when their bands were touring and remained in touch, sending each other piecemeal musical parcels like tweens caught up in a chatroom romance. Their first attempt, 2001's single "(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," came out so tasty that the boys kept cooking. Tamborello snail-mailed Gibbard CD-R's of percussive electronica; Gibbard then tweaked them a bit, adding melodies, vocals, guitar, drums, and keyboards, and mailed them back. And so it went, layer by layer, until out came a lasagna of talent. Gibbard whittled most of the lyrics from pure old-fashioned imagination, not his usual autobiographical pathos, making the daydreamy ten-track disc clip along like traveling tires.
Gibbard, who has confessed a deep affection for Hall and Oates, stumbles into problems typical of any neophyte fiction writer, penning precious, sap-sopped lyrics that border on the cliché and waylay the effervescence of the music. I won't be the last to wince at the lines "I am thinking it's a sign/That the freckles in our eyes are mirror images/And when we kiss they're perfectly aligned" (from "Such Great Heights") and "Last night I had a strange dream/Where everything was exactly how it seemed/Where there was never any mystery/Of who shot John F. Kennedy" (from "Sleeping In").
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On some tracks, a melee erupts between slow, sad lyrical intent and the peppy blips and bleeps of keyboard finger poetry. This is righted a bit by wan, beautiful backing vocals from Jen Wood and Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, who hold notes long enough to sound less like singers and more like instruments. Overall, Give Up is hard-wired for happy thoughts or, at least, thoughts that pass like trees outside a train window.