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Death Cab's Gibbard, Dntel's Tamborello Form Postal Service

You can thank the U.S. Postal Service for the upcoming collaborative effort between Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, the brainy electronica music-maker also known as Dntel. The twosome's debut album, Give Up, due from Sub Pop Feb. 18, is the result of 10 months of musical swapping via good ol' snail mail. "It was really great to get a little package every month or two," Gibbard was quoted in a Sub Pop press release.

The duo, aptly calling itself The Postal Service, began bouncing ideas between Tamborello's home in Los Angeles and Gibbard's in Seattle in December of 2001. Gibbard first met Tamborello while paying a visit to Tamborello's roommate, Jealous Sound guitarist Pedro Benito (Gibbard and Benito had become friends when their bands toured together).

Gibbard and Tamborello had previously collaborated when Tamborello (also known for his work with Figurine and Strictly Ballroom) asked Gibbard if he'd add vocals to "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," which subsequently appeared on Dntel's 2001 longplayer Life Is Full of Possibilities. "It seemed kind of effortless," Tamborello said. "He came down and sang it once and we were just really happy with it."

The positive experience they had on "Evan and Chan" prompted the two to start the Postal Service project. In late 2001, Tamborello began sending Gibbard CD-ROMs of his bass-heavy, layered electronic music. In addition to his distinctive, heartfelt vocals, Gibbard also added guitar, drums and keyboard tracks to the mix with the help of Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla at his Hall of Justice studio. He also wrote the lyrics.

The 10-song album includes: "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," "Such Great Heights," "Sleeping In," "Nothing Better," "Recycled Air," "Clark Gable," "We Will Become Silhouettes," "This Place Is a Prison," "Brand New Colony" and "Natural Anthem."

Though born out of a songwriting process quite different from that used by Death Cab, the record — which also features vocal contributions from Rilo Kiley guitarist/vocalist Jenny Lewis and solo artist Jen Wood — sounds a bit like Death Cab Goes Electronic. "Some of the songs are very much of a Death Cab mode," Gibbard was quoted as saying in a Sub Pop press release. "But people have been commenting, 'Wow, the lyrics are really different.' When somebody is just handing you music and you're supposed to sing over the top of it, it feels different than when you're sitting at home with a guitar trying to write a song."

Gibbard said most of the songs are "just kind of daydreaming and coming up with ideas for songs that aren't necessarily based in reality.... It didn't feel right for all the songs to be breakup-type songs. They just felt more like the kind of songs that you would want to dance to, and you wouldn't want to have a lyric that's super heavy."

One of the songs, "Such Great Heights," was a first for the Death Cab frontman. "'Such Great Heights' is the first time I've ever written a positive love song, where it's a song about being in love and how it's rad, rather than having your heart broken."

The duo plan to tour in the spring, and hope to record more Postal Service albums in the future.