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The shrillest highs and lowest lows: After a decade, The Postal Service returns to Philly (photos, review, setlist)

The Postal Service | Photo by Eric Ashleigh | showtographe.com
The Postal Service | Photo by Eric Ashleigh | showtographe.com

“We’re not really a band,” Ben Gibbard said last night as The Postal Service stepped out onstage for its encore. “We’ve all got our own projects, we’re just kind of moonlighting here.”

Which explains why the synthpop outfit has only played Philly twice ever, despite the way its 2003 LP Give Up (celebrating its 10th anniversary this year) escalated from a cult favorite sideproject to a mainstream success. Roll call: singer and multiinstrumentalist Gibbard was busy touring and making albums with Death Cab for Cutie, or as a solo artist. Jenny Lewis was busy being Jenny Lewis (or playing in Rilo Kiley, until that band fizzled out). Beatmaker / producer Jimmy Tamborello had DNTEL going on. Schedules are tough things to coordinate. So at the non-band’s first time back to Philadelphia after debuting at the North Star Bar on April 17 of 2003, its audience was about 40 times bigger, filling out a bustling Mann Center on a breezy evening.

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds joined the group on auxiliary instrumentation, and Tamborello had a lording-over-the-proceedings presence, stationed on a riser with his MacBook and mixer. But Gibbard and Lewis were the stars of the show, and seemed to relish those roles. Gibbard in particular – he’s known for being somewhat wooden and awkward as a Death Cab frontman, but here he was animated. He danced, gestured, smiled, moved around the massive stage, and actually looked like he was having a good time. His voice rang out with the crisp range it had on the recording ten years ago, and he made frequent side trips behind a drumkit to mix in live percussion to the programmed beats.

Doing this on “We Will Become Like Silhouettes”, Lewis strutted downstage and led the crowd in pogoing and clapping, hype-woman style. While her voice hasn’t aged as well as Gibbard’s (her lead vocal on “Nothing Better” sounded a bit weary), seeing the band live underscored how much she contributed to the album beyond that song – and her vocals on the opening “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “Recycled Air” came across much more strongly. Tamborello, though, ground the latter to a halt with a spate of Daft Punk-esque vocoder vocals – his only unfortunate singing of the night.

Which, of course, is being massively nit-picky. I could be further nit-picky and dissect the new / previously-unreleased songs in the set from the expanded Give Up reissue. (Quick stabs: “Turn Around” was the best, with a grinding beat and thunderous energy; “A Tattered Line of String” was annoying; “Be Still My Heart” was forgettable.) The overarching vibe of the night was a positive one, from the band delivering a lively and commanding performance, to the crowd responding in kind with an extended singalong to the raging closer “Brand New Colony.”

Gibbard even worked in local quips when they fit. “Like Philadelphia’s The Roots said, ‘Sometimes relationships get ill,’” he said to introduce “Nothing Better.” “This song is about that.” Or, “The best band in the world is The Dead Milkmen; the second best band in the world is Beat Happening” before launching into a cover of the latter’s “Our Secret.”

On the one hand, it was a nostalgia trip for people who fell in love with the album a decade ago and never got to experience it in a live setting. On the other hand, it was a set of great music, independent of time or place. Check out a gallery of images from the show and read the setlist below.

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The Week’s Best MP3 Downloads, incl. The Postal Service, Grandchildren, Joseph Arthur, Mount Moriah, and more

photos by Myriam Santos
Photo by Myriam Santos
XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week featured Joseph Arthur and his new song “Saint of Impossible Causes.” The track comes from Arthur’s upcoming album The Ballad of Boogie Christ. Stream and download the song below, and learn more about Ballad here.

Wednesday’s My Morning Download featured a quartet from Nashville called The Features and their song “The Disorder.”  The band is a musical chameleon, drawing their quirky sound from classic rock, indie rock, southern soul and more with ease.  They’ll be at MilkBoy Philly on Wednesday, May 8th; go here for info.

Mount Moriah delivered a stirring performance for this week’s Folkadelphia session.  The North Carolina band performed songs from their recent Miracle Temple LP – download the full set on Folkadelphia’s Bandcamp here, and listen to “White Sands” below.

We got a double dose of Key Studio Sessions this week.  Liz & the Lost Boys turned in a preview of their upcoming LP on Wednesday, with jazzy harp-playing and theatrical vocals.  Thursday saw the release of the Key Studio Sessions Vol. 7, featuring tracks from Waxahatchee, Pissed Jeans and more.  Download the compilation here, grab the full Liz & the Lost Boys appearance here and stream their song “I’ll Stay” below.

In advance of its release on May 7th, Grandchildren‘s Golden Age was the topic of this week’s Unlocked series.  The in-depth look at the local band’s new album kicked-off with a download of “End Times.”  Revisit the full feature here and download “End Times” here.

Finally, The Postal Service are celebrating the 10th anniversary release of its album, Give Up. From it, download one of the two new songs from re-release, “A Tattered Line Of String.”

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My Morning Download: “A Tattered Line of String” by The Postal Service (playing The Mann Center June 17)

Photo Credit: Brian Tamborello
Photo Credit: Brian Tamborello

The Postal Service – Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and prodcer Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) – have reunited for a tour and the 10th anniversary release of Give Up, a collection of electro-pop songs that has a lasting influence on indie rock since its release in February, 2003. No one foresaw the influence the record would have. The album’s most popular song “Such Great Heights,” began to seep into the zietgeist of pop culture over a period of a couple of years. It was covered by Iron & Wine on the 2004 film and soundtrack, Garden State, and was prominently featured on Greys Anatomy in 2005. The band has not released a second album, however have taken the anniversary of Give Up’s release to tour, which bring them to The Mann Center on Monday, June 17.

The deluxe edition of Give Up features two new songs, “A Tattered Line of String” and “Turn Around.” Below, download “A Tattered Line Of String.”

The Postal Service play The Mann Center on Monday, June 17 with Ra Ra Riot. Go here for tickets.
Purchase Give Up here.

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
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Listen to a new song by The Postal Service, “Turn Around” (playing The Mann Center on June 17th)

“Turn Around” is another new song by The Postal Service from its deluxe 10th anniversary edition of the band’s one and only album, Give Up out on April 9th on Sub Pop Records. The Postal Service is Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel and Figurine, and will be joined by Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley. The band plays The Mann Center on Monday, June 17th. Tickets are on sale now. Go here for more information.

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Why didn’t Moby, Aimee Mann or Weird Al Yankovic make it into The Postal Service?

Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 3.43.36 PMThis ranks up there with Ted Leo’s “Bottled In Cork” video as a brilliant crossover of indie rock and internet sketch comedy. Under the guise of a recently uncovered “audition reel” for The Postal Service, we see comedian Jon Daly as “Dave from Sub Pop” sitting down with Jimmy Tamborello to find a partner for his “weird genius shit.” Among those audtioning: Jon Wurster from Superchunk, singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, Tom DeLonge from Blink-182, Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses (though neither Jimmy nor Dave believe him), parody popster Weird Al Yankovic (whose accordion-wailing “We Will Become Like Silhouettes” might be the best thing he’s done in years), and Moby, who delivers a particularly memorable freakout. Watch it below – it’s eight minutes but well worth it. The Postal Service play the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on June 17th; tickets and more information are available here.

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Just Announced: The Postal Service will play The Mann on 6/17

Following the announcement of a 10th Anniversary Give Up reissue and the release of a brand new track, The Postal Service have scheduled a North American tour that brings them to The Mann Center on June 17th.  The Benjamin Gibbard / Jimmy Tamborello partnership released Give Up in 2003 with widespread acclaim thanks to stand-out tracks “Such Great Heights” and “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.”  The reissue, out through Sub Pop on April 9th, will include all ten original slots along with a second disc of remixes, covers and a pair of new tracks including the just-released “A Tattered Line of String.”

The accompanying summer tour sees The Postal Service bringing along Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) to add some guest vocals to the mix.  Tickets and information for the all-ages show at The Mann on June 17th can be found here.  Below, stream “A Tattered Line of String” and view the full reissue tracklist here.

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Ben Gibbard loosens up at The Keswick Theater (review, setlist)

Photo by John Vettese

“I was worried about playing this show,” Ben Gibbard told the crowd at Glenside’s Keswick Theater last night. “I mean, not worried about being here, but more what kind of vibe today would have. But I’m very happy right now.”

Maybe it was because he was on post-Election Day cloud nine, or maybe it’s just the format of the tour, but this solo appearance had a loose mood and lively personality that we rarely get to see from the Death Cab for Cutie frontman.

For all its epic songs and their transcendent peaks and valleys, the Seattle band – historically speaking – is kind of a drag in concert. Over the years, they’ve repeatedly come off as too locked-in, too stiff, evidently unmoved and maybe even kinda bored by their own spectacular music. When Gibbard did banter with the crowd at those full-band shows, there was an air of detachment.

At the Keswick, we saw the complete opposite. Continue reading →