Posts Tagged ‘Ben Gibbard’

THE POSTAL SERVICE – Manchester Academy, 18/05/2013

June 4, 2013

The standard hubbub of pre-gig chatter at tonight’s gig is even more excitable than usual, no doubt owing to the fact that tonight’s audience have been listening to The Postal Service’s sole album for a decade, with little sign of a follow-up or live performance. But when the familiar electronic pulse of ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’ kicks in, that anticipation dissolves into pure joy, and everyone swiftly loosens up. Tonight is most assuredly going to be a party.

Those 10 years certainly become apparent – Jimmy Tamborello’s array of bleeps, whirrs and clicks sound curiously timid in a world still gripped by dubstep’s thudding bass.

But for all that, it’s fascinating how warm those songs still sound. From the sweeping sadness of the melodies to Ben Gibbard’s adorably nasal croon. “I watch the patchwork farms / Slow fade into the ocean’s arms,” he sighs, and suddenly it’s impossible to understand why rock music (or at least the strand known as ‘indie’) ever had any difficulty crossing over with electronica.

These songs are as gloriously affecting as anything Gibbard has composed for the guitar-focussed Death Cab For Cutie, with those softly understated loops melting imperceptibly into his typically bookish narratives. You could rarely call The Postal Service ‘dance music’ – they sure ain’t Daft Punk – but everyone present does their best to groove along, turning nearly every lovingly-memorised line into a gleeful anthem.

Two new songs have been included in the recent reissue of ‘Give Up’ – ‘Turn Around’ and ‘A Tattered Line Of String’ – but they represent the only previously-unreleased material in tonight’s set. Nothing hints at a second album.

We do, however, get Jenny Lewis duetting with Gibbard on a rapturously-received ‘Nothing Better’, a giddy Beat Happening cover (‘Our Secret’), and a brisk run-through of the track that started the whole thing: Dntel collaboration ‘(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan’.

The set closes with Gibbard manning the drum kit stage left, as band and crowd alike coo, “everything will change”. Is this a sign that their productivity is about to increase? Or a line is drawn under the band for good? It’s impossible to tell, but at least everybody got what they came for: an intense hit of euphoric nostalgia. In that respect, The Postal Service certainly deliver.

(Originally published by Clash Music, 21/05/2013)


Let’s Whisper – ‘The Shortest Days’ (WeePOP!)

April 25, 2011

Ages ago I said that some people had been kind enough to send me records for review, then promptly failed to do that. Having subjected myself to various beatings by way of self-admonishment, I can now get on with the business of saying stuff about pop music.

Let’s Whisper consists of Colin Clary and Dana Kaplan, who double up as members of Burlington, Vermont’s The Smittens. I’d hesitate to use the word ‘twee’ to describe their other band’s sounds because that comes loaded with all kinds of surface signifiers and sneery rubbishness – but if you ignore all that guff, it’s a pretty accurate description of their sound.

I love The Smittens. Their songs are a rush of pure unrefined sugar.  They’re daisy garlands and ice creams and sunny days and five-year-olds skipping in the grass and everything inbetween. They do, however, make me feel as though I have to rush out to listen to Slayer, if only to restore some sort of natural order.

So I did wonder if a duo consisting of two of their principle songwriters would be much different. They’re actually a pretty different beast. Albeit still the sort of beast that you can pet, rather than one you’d run away from in terror.

A good deal of The Shortest Days is powered by simple electronic drum beats, and it’s all delightfully melodic. California Girls has a beautifully understated wistfulness to it that most bands just can’t do, whilst pretty much nicking the chorus to one of The Beach Boys’ more sunny moments. It’s lovely stuff. In fact, most of Dana’s songs (notably this, 2 Hours and Jackpot) purr along with this sort of subtle sadness at their root. Colin, meanwhile, offers upbeat numbers like Meet Me On The Dancefloor and more reflective fare such as All Happy Endings.

It’s easy to compare this  to The Smittens, because even if the songs are a little less ‘up’, they’re still the same songwriters. But if there’s anyone that this reminds me of most, it’d be The Postal Service. Maybe it’s the way those syn-drums pulse so relentlessly, or maybe it’s the layered trade-off harmonies, but something about this record shapes the vocals and pushes them into Gibbard-esque flakes of loveliness. It works well, in any case.

So this ain’t exactly ‘twee’, although by the same token it’s hardly gonna cause your Isis-loving friends to go ‘woah, these guys rock!’ But that’s the sort of thing that really doesn’t matter either way. What is important is that Let’s Whisper have crafted a gorgeously pop record that doesn’t outstay its welcome, but won’t leave you untouched either. True believers, this is a classic example of bedroom pop transcending its limitations, and becoming musical prettiness personified. It’s limited to 500 copies though, so act fast.

I can see me listening to this a lot this summer.