Saturday, May 15, 2021

Countdown to 30: My Favorite Album From 2003


Well yesterday was a little heavy. Hopefully today is a little less serious. 2003 was the year of Ben Gibbard. And this is coming from someone for whom the majority of the coming years were about Gibbard. But you'll see what I mean in a second.

My runner-up album is Transatlanticism by Death Cab For Cutie. 

Transatlanticism was the first album by Death Cab to feature Jason McGerr on drums, and it was also a drastic sound difference from their previous albums. Earlier albums had a harder sound not even close to the ballads on Transatlanticism. The sound the band developed on the album ended up following them for at least the next three albums.

Ben Gibbard wrote the bulk of the songs, with some songs cowritten with Chris Walla and some with work from the whole band. Transatlanticism explores long distance relationships, as the title alludes to. The songs on this album are all very poetic, catchy tracks. I play "The New Year" almost every year on January 1st. It would have been my album of 2003 for sure, had that year not also been the year of...

Give Up by the Postal Service was their debut album, as well as being their only full-length album to date. During a hiatus from Death Cab For Cutie, Ben Gibbard started working with Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) after Gibbard contributed vocals to a Dntel song. Tamborello and Gibbard worked on songs by sending CD-Rs of the tracks back and forth through the mail. That's how they decided on their name. The USPS sent them a cease and desist letter about using their name. The outcome of the legal battle is pretty hilarious, with the USPS agreeing in the end to let them use the name, and even at one point selling copies of the album on their official website.

Gibbard and Tamborello didn't know each other very well and came from very different musical backgrounds, meaning they got to know one another as they were nervously exchanging ideas via the mail. 

Jen Wood and Jenny Lewis provided backing vocals. Death Cab For Cutie guitarist and producer, Chris Walla also contributed to the album, primarily through use of Hall of Justice studios. He also played piano on "Nothing Better."  

Give Up created something of its own genre, a blend of sad indie pop and electronic music. When Owl City first came out, people pointed out similarities. There was mostly silence from those involved with The Postal Service, except for a Tweet from Chris Walla, during a thread about a lawsuit case involving Men at Work. "Related: Owl City should really consider buying Ben a pony" (Sidenote: If there's one thing I miss in this world, it's Chris Walla's Twitter. I think about it often).

The album is filled with fantastic songs. Both Gibbard's lyrics and Tamborello's beats and electronic instrumentals are effective in communicating a great deal. Several songs are strange story songs, such as "Sleeping In" and "Clark Gable." Others gave a romantic and uplifting message ("Such Great Heights").

I'm pretty sure this is 2003 but I'm honestly 
not sure.
My friend Zack introduced me to The Postal Service and I'm ashamed of how long it took me to realize Gibbard was the lead singer in both this project and Death Cab For Cutie. "Such Great Heights" was the first song I heard and it's also probably the best known on the album.

"We Will Become Silhouettes" is Gibbard's apocalyptic piece and also one of the songs my sister and I thought was a lot of fun because of the blasé attitude of the whole thing.

In film school, you have to come up with a lot of ideas, pitches, and short stories. I would always mine songs for ideas and considered "Clark Gable" before moving on to a fun. song. One of my classmates did attempt to pitch a "Clark Gable" idea though, which I noticed almost immediately and admired him for.

I could listen to any song on this album again and again, and in fact have in most cases. There are quite a few EPs out there too, all worth a listen. After their 2013 tour, Gibbard announced that they would not be releasing a second album. This one, however, speaks loudly enough.

Leaderboard engage:

Join me tomorrow for my favorite album of 2004.

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