The Postal Service: “A Tattered Line Of String”

Photo by Brian Tamborello

In 2002, Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello–an electronic producer known for his moniker Dntel–decided to start a side project together. The only problem? They were separated by over a thousand miles, with Gibbard based in Seattle and Tamborello in Los Angeles. So the pair launched their band by exchanging CDs filled with song sketches and ideas; each member would add to the composition in their respective recording studios and mail it back. Eventually, the songs morphed into Give Up, an album that blurred the lines between electronica, dance music, and synth-pop. The duo settled on a band name that paid homage to their snail-mail aesthetic: the Postal Service.

The Postal Service’s birth sounds anachronistic today–it’s now common practice for artists to collaborate around the world through email and online file boxes. But there’s something about the romanticism of the whole idea, right before our online lives would largely render the actual postal service obsolete. That romanticism goes hand-in-hand with the album’s huge influence. Released in 2003, Give Up wound up going platinum, becoming one of the biggest-selling albums ever released by the indie label Sub Pop. Fans clamored for a follow-up, but the Postal Service never delivered. Gibbard and Tamborello felt one album was enough, and the two went their separate ways.

Still, Give Up changed more than a few lives: a little-known singer-songwriter calling himself Iron & Wine scored a hit after covering “Such Great Heights;” Gibbard’s own Death Cab For Cutie soon hit the mainstream; and nowadays, there’s an entire generation of laptop-aided musicians who can trace their lineage back to that inauspicious debut. A decade later, Gibbard and Tamborello now seem set to recognize their collective impact. The two have reunited under the Postal Service banner  to play a string of high-profile festival dates, and Sub Pop has deemed it fit to reissue the landmark album. Included in the reissue are the demos and sketches that first inspired the band, and the Postal Service have also included a handful of newly-recorded songs. “A Tattered Line Of String,” featuring Jenny Lewis on backing vocals, picks up right where the group left off in 2003. This time around, though, there’s hope that the Postal Service will stay a little longer.


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