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Music / The Postal Service

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Left to right: Ben Gibbard, Jenny Lewis, Jimmy Tamborello

The Postal Service are an American indie/electronic band based in Seattle, Washington and formed in 2001. It is composed of vocalist Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) and producer Jimmy Tamborello (a.k.a. Dntel), along with backup vocalist Jenny Lewis and occasional vocal contributions from singer Jen Wood.

The band's name came from its initial means for production: Gibbard and Tamborello would work on tracks by recording demos on DATs and CD-Rs and mailing them back and forth through the United States Postal Service, with each person adding elements to the pre-existing tracks. The actual USPS sent the band a cease-and-desist in 2003, but after negotiations, they allowed the band to use the name in exchange for promotion of the service.

The Postal Service's first and only album, Give Up, was released on February 19, 2003. Although it was released with little promotion, its popularity steadily grew such that by the end of its first decade, it had sold over 1.2 million copies, making it Sub Pop Records' biggest success since Nirvana's Bleach.

The band were then largely inactive starting in 2005. Talks of a second album arose around 2007, but said album was never completed. Their next major public move wouldn't come until 2013, when they reunited for an extended world tour which coincided with a 10th-anniversary reissue of Give Up. Near the tour's end, it was announced through Gibbard's Twitter that The Postal Service would disband permanently. A documentary concert film from the tour, Everything Will Change, was released in November 2014.

New social media accounts in the band's name were created in October 2020, sparking speculation about new music possibly being on the horizon. Two months later, the live recordings from Everything Will Change were released in audio form for the first time. The band reunited once more in 2023 for a co-headlining tour with Death Cab for Cutie, performing Give Up in its entirety to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Tropes associated with this band include:

  • B-Side: "There's Never Enough Time," from the "Such Great Heights" single.
  • Broken Record: The second half of "Sleeping In" is just the same lines repeated for two minutes.
    "Don't wake me, I plan on sleeping in
    Don't wake me, I plan on sleeping, ooh, ooh..."
  • Cover Version: "Such Great Heights" has been covered by many, including Iron and Wine, Amanda Palmer, and Ben Folds. A cover of "We Will Become Silhouettes" was released by The Shins. On the flipside, the band itself has done covers of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" (for the Wicker Park soundtrack), Flaming Lips' "Suddenly Everything Has Changed," and John Lennon's "Grow Old With Me."
  • Everything Is an Instrument: The sound of clinking silverware makes up part of the rhythm for "Sleeping In."
  • Indie Pop: A huge influence on the genre today; "We Will Become Silhouettes" was the first song in the genre to become a radio hit.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "There's Never Enough Time."
    "In due time, you'll finally see, there's barely time for us to breathe."
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "A Tattered Line of String."
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Sleeping In" is an, appropriately enough, dreamy-sounding tune about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and global warming, respectively. The implication is that it's about remaining idealistic (ie, not waking up from your personal dream) in the face of real-work tragedy.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "There's Never Enough Time" is the only song of theirs to have this.
  • One-Book Author: Give Up is their one and only studio album.
  • Phrase Salad Lyrics: At times.
  • Quarreling Song: "Nothing Better," between Ben and Jenny's characters.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech; In "Nothing Better:"
    "I feel I must interject here, you're getting carried away feeling sorry for yourself
    With these revisions and gaps in history
    So let me help you remember, I've made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear
    I've prepared a lecture on why I have to leave"
  • Shout-Out: "Clark Gable."
    "I kissed you in a style Clark Gable would have admired, I thought it classic"
  • Silly Love Songs
    • "Be Still My Heart."
    • "Such Great Heights."
  • Spiritual Successor
    • The Postal Service's work as a whole can be considered a successor to the 2001 Dntel single "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," which was the first time Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello collaborated.
    • Adam Young said that his first few Owl City albums could be this when fans kept accusing him of ripping off The Postal Service.
  • Unplugged Version: A live acoustic version of "Recycled Air", performed by Ben Gibbard alone for a radio station, was used as a B-Side.