Today, South Florida's best indie pop exports, the Postmarks, play international-caliber festivals and receive glowing reviews from everyone who matters. Their trajectory of success has been impressively swift: Only three years ago, the band was just a tiny music project inside Christopher Moll's Coral Springs home studio.
But then came the group's alluring self-titled debut in 2007. Thanks largely to early Internet buzz about its sweetly serious jangle-pop tunes, the album became an instant favorite upon its release, earning the band raves from the likes of Spin and Pitchfork. Last year saw the release of an all-covers followup, By the Numbers, which paid tribute to the band's retro musical influences and hinted at an expanded, livelier sound. Now, the Postmarks' long-awaited official second album, Memoirs at the End of the World, which comes out next Tuesday, rightfully opens the next chapter of the group's adventures into cool and luscious melody.
"For me, the love affair with a lot of the bands that I was into when I was growing up started with their second album," says 39-year-old Moll, the band's guitarist and one of its chief songwriters. "Usually if a band manages to avoid the sophomore album slump, then their second effort is the one that grabs you."
The Postmarks seem to have avoided that slump. Early reviews of the new album have been nothing but glowing, and this time the band seems to be reaching the ears of the mainstream press. In early July, even the New York Post praised Memoirs for providing "a whole new way of listening to music."
The differences between the debut and Memoirs are subtle but instantly noticeable. The former was full of serene pastoral songs such as "Goodbye," a dreamy ditty about failed love. This time around, compositions such as the vampy new single "Go Jetsetter" seem to flow with more oomph, confidence, and edge. "It's a rebellion against the 'twee' smooth sound of our first record. If you look in iTunes, the new album's genre is classified as 'unknown,'" Moll says. "To me, that shows we are not that easy to pigeonhole into categories like indie or twee."
"It's a little more intense. The dark is darker, and the bounce is bouncier," says the band's 24-year-old chanteuse, Tim Yehezkely. "This time around, the album is more of a film score than our first record, which was more like a soundtrack." A recent warm-up mini-tour proved the change was a winner with the band's fan base too. "We chose to perform songs that are easier to translate in a live setting, so our set isn't as mellow anymore," she says. "It's got a new energy and a new confidence, which fans are definitely picking up on and responding to."
Still, as much as Memoirs updates the Postmarks' palette, the band retains a decidedly retro sound and feel. There's a distinctive Anglo- and Francophile stamp to the sound, and the group's new promo photos show Yehezkely in bat-winged eyeliner, flanked by Moll and drummer Jon Wilkins wearing sharp suits. Coinciding with the whole '60s mod vibe, the album will also be released on vinyl — a first for the band. "It's a lifelong dream," says Moll, a longtime record collector. "Many of the bands I grew up listening to, my very first purchases of their music were on either vinyl or cassette, and the smell of vinyl or of the clear cassettes is enough to take me back in time."
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And though the Postmarks are signed to a New York-based indie label, Unfiltered, their global reach might expand even more in coming months. Unfiltered recently signed a new distribution deal with Warner Bros., and the latter plans to release Memoirs across Europe within the next two months.
All of this is obviously great news for Yehezkely, Moll, and Wilkins, who still remain occupied with day jobs and college. "This new album proves we can work well together under pressure and rise to the challenge of meeting looming deadlines," Yehezkely says. "Despite Chris's day job, Jon's gazillion projects, and my full-time pharmacy school schedule, we recorded Memoirs in about six months, as compared to the three meandering years it took to finish the debut."
As for upcoming plans, the band is getting ready to embark on a national tour, supporting Stellastarr* and Peter Bjorn and John. The tour will largely skirt the Southeast, however, and besides a recent informal one-off at Propaganda in Lake Worth, it might be awhile before the band plays on its home turf. Though the Postmarks live and produce their records down here, they don't perform live very often. Moll loves meticulous studio production and finds many of the local venues technologically lacking. But it works in the band's favor. Despite being a local act, the group retains an air of mystery among South Florida audiences, and thus its live appearances are seen as special events.
"I'm not a regular show-goer myself. For me, a gig is a once-in-a-while special occasion, and that's how I like ours to be," Moll says. "When we're on tour, it's great to be in a new city every night with a different crowd, like a series of parties with new people to meet. But locally, I like to hang out with my friends rather than perform for them!"