I have never really liked The Postal Service, based solely on the fact that I did not like "Such Great Heights" when it came out 20 years ago. I don’t know why—I love electronic music plus, cringe, I did like a couple Owl City songs, who everyone compared to the Postal Service. Since I’m on a kick of revisiting albums I ignored in the 90s and early 00s, plus I’m actually seeing The Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie back to back playing Give Up and Transatlanticism live in their entirety, I figured I should listen to Give Up. (And yes, Transantlanticism will be the subject of a future post!)
A caveat: While I listened to the deluxe version of Give Up for this post, my review will focus on the original album. In general, none of the songs on the second disc stood out to me. (Except the cover of “Against All Odds”. I never thought I’d praise Phil Collins, but here I am, admitting that his version is better than The Postal Service’s. 19 year old me would be horrified.)
On to the review!
My favorite song on the album? "Nothing Better". I really enjoyed the back and forth between Ben Gibbard and Jen Wood, the lyrics, and the sound in general. It’s a perfect combination of everything!
I also liked “We Will Become Silhouettes” (hey, I spelled ‘silhouettes’ correctly on the first try). I had heard this song before but it never stuck out to me, but I enjoyed it in the context of the album.
Also, yes… I enjoyed "Such Great Heights". As much as it pains me to admit it, yes, it’s a good song and super fun to drive to! (I’m just going to ignore the Iron & Wine cover as no matter how many times I listen to them, I can’t get into them!)
Other songs I enjoyed on the album
I loved “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” as the album’s opener. It starts off slow but driving and becomes slightly more dance-y, yet still conveying loneliness and longing.
I also liked "Clark Gable", "Brand New Colony", and "Sleeping In". Not sure what else to say about these songs, just that I enjoyed both the lyrics and the sound.
I thought "National Anthem", the closer, was an interesting choice to end the album. I’m really curious to see what this will sound like live as I imagine it will be pretty spectacular in person!
I did not enjoy two of the songs on the album—“Recycled Air” and “This Place is a Prison”. Of course the lyrics were great, but I did not like the overall sound of these songs. Maybe that’s the goal, for these sounds to sound similar to what the lyrics convey, but they weren’t my favorite. I’ve never listened to an album where I enjoyed every song, so I expected this.
In all, this album didn’t hit me like In the Aeroplane over the Sea or Funeral, but this album was fun to listen to in the car. Lyrically, the album is amazing, but I didn’t like the ‘slower’ songs like "Recycled Air" and "This Place is a Prison" due to their sound. Yes, as I wrote above, I even liked "Such Great Heights"! Now that I’m familiar with this album, I can’t wait to see it performed live in September.
Before this year, the closest I came to listening to a Neutral Milk Hotel song was the Apples in Stereo’s cover of “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. Three” (which, after learning that Neutral Milk Hotel and the Apples in Stereo shared band members, is not surprising). Then I heard “Holland, 1945” for the first time at the start of 2023 and immediately started to cry, looking out the window at night, and the moment seemed perfect.
This is going to be a hard post to write, because the reaction I’ve had to listening to this entire album is unlike any reaction I’ve ever had to an album. I’m crying right now writing this post, so yeah, you can see this album had an effect on me.
This album dropped in February 1998 when I was 17 years old and a junior in high school. Other important events from 1998 in my personal life: I dated my first boyfriend for a few short months in the spring, and I taught myself HTML and CSS after learning that you didn’t have to be a super genius with a college degree to create a website on the internet.
What was I listening to at 17? Britpop. Lots and lots of Britpop. I was heavily into both Blur and Oasis and spent the summer in my basement listening to a little song called “Star Shaped” that miiiight have become more important to me in just a couple years. Basically, no way would 17 year old me be interested in Neutral Milk Hotel, at all. No. Serious. Way.
All right, let’s get to the album review, which I anticipate will be massively disjointed and full of all the feels.
The album starts with King of Carrot Flowers Part 1 as one song and parts 2 and 3 as the second song. Not sure why all the songs weren’t either part of the same song or all different songs, but whatever! Part 1 immediately set me off and I cried all the way through parts 2 and 3. I loved hearing the original version of the Apples in Stereo cover I listened to so many times back in the late 00s!
However, part 1 was my favorite mainly for the reaction I had to it. I just… I’m trying to figure out the words to say and why it hit me so hard. I don’t know if I can, which makes writing a blog post about it really difficult! It just hit me in a way that felt right, and this is not the only song that made me feel this way.
“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” was only okay. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t have the same sort of visceral reaction to it that I did for the first 3 songs on the album. I’ve seen this song on a million “Essential Indie” playlists so this tells me this was one of the more popular songs on the album, and it has that kind of universal indie sound that puts it on these kinds of lists. Teh song isn’t bad, but it’s not my favorite.
Same with the two different “Two Headed Boy” versions on the album—the first version is fine and I apprecated its ‘from the heart’-ness, and I liked Part 2 as the closer to the album, but they didn’t hit me quite the same. The emotion in these two songs, though, I felt in my own way.
Next up is The Fool, a mournful instrumental that I sort of dug, mainly because I lke a good instrumental to break things up a little. I do dig a song that sounds a little like a funeral death march, especially in an album that’s already giving me all the feels!
Of course, though, this song is followed by Holland, 1945, the song I talked about at the beginning that made me cry the very first time I heard it (and not going to lie, nearly EVERY other time I’ve heard it) and it’s just, well, again, beyond words. (This is why this blog post is hard to write!) Is it the sound, the feeling, the lyrics? Everything? I definitely wouldn’t have felt this way if I had heard the song at 17. Maybe I would have felt this way at, say, 24 or 15, but not at 17. Maybe I wasn’t ready until the age of 42, honestly.
I don’t remember much about Communist Daughter, the next song, but it wasn’t bad. It fit well with the album, but I didn’t feel any particular way after listening to it. I wouldn’t skip this song when listening to the entire album, but I wouldn’t look forward to hearing this song, either. It’s just okay.
Then we get to The One Song I Don’t Like on the Album (tm). Oh, Comely, this is you on this album! 8 minutes long, vocals that border on the whiny side, and an overly repetitve and slow verse—nope, this song isn’t for me. I listened to it once and that was enough!
Now we’re nearing the end of the album, and Ghost? LOVE. Another song that started the waterworks for me! It hit me the same way that King of Carrot Flowers 1 and Holland 1945 did, so I appreciated that this album hit me in the feels SO MANY different times. [untitled], another instrumental, perfectly followed Ghost, and the album ended with Two Headed Boy Part 2. Again, good song that I won’t ever listen on its own, but it ended the album in a quiet way. I like quiet endings to albums, especially albums I love this much.
Overall? I really, really, REALLY liked this album. With the exception of Comely, I will be listening to this album over and over and this is another album I’d buy on vinyl if I had a record player. I don’t know if any other album has made me feel as many things as this album has, which is surprising becsue I’ve istned to a lot of albums in my 42 years and have felt a lot of things. Either way, this one’s one of my top feelings albums now!
I’m trying to remember why I didn’t listen to Arcade Fire when they burst on the scene in 2004 with their first album, Funeral. I probably read a pretentious review of the album on Pitchfork or something and decided to write them off, or I was a contrary 23 year old who didn’t want to listen to an album because everyone else* was. Or both! I don’t know.
Either way, at 42 years old, I decided to listen to the entire album for the first time. Of course I had heard Wake Up (I didn’t live under THAT big of a rock!) and Rebellion (Lies), but I hadn’t heard anything else. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but spoiler, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Funeral is essentially a nearly perfect album. Yeah, 23 year old me would be surprised too.
Anyway, here’s my review!
The album opens with Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), which is my favorite out of the four Neighborhood songs on the album. A good opening song sounds like a sunrise to me, and that’s what this song evoked for me while listening to it. I loved it.
I also enjoyed the other Neighborhood songs and thought they flowed together nicely, with the song “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” breaking up the neighborhood theme. (Fun, somewhat related fact: I did not know Arcade Fire was from Montreal. How did I not know this?) I’m thinking so far, I’m really digging this album.
Then… I listen to Crown of Love. Meh. Usually I don’t mind songs in 3/4 time but nope, not a fan of this one. It reminded me too much of the song Oh! Darling by the Beatles, and I think that’s the better song. It also ends with the song fading out, which is one of my ultimate pet peeves when it comes to songs on an album. No, end the song! Don’t fade it out!
Thankfully my disappointment didn’t last long, because the best 3 songs on the album came in succession: Wake Up, Haiti, and Rebellion (Lies). I’m not going to talk much about Wake Up because it’s a damn fantastic, almost perfect song, but I WILL talk about my #1 favorite thing on an album—one song transitioning into another! (I know that this isn’t much different than the song fade, but maybe I’m still contrary, 19 years later!)
After the best trio of songs in the world, the album ends with “In the Backseat”. I liked this song as an album closer, but I’m not sure I’d ever listen to it on its own. Still, it was the perfect ending to a pretty damn good album.
So, overall, what did I think? As I said above, this is a nearly perfect album, with an upbeat opener, a slight cooldown with the next couple songs, a trio of FANTASTIC tunes, then ending on an introspective note. Every transition just worked; (almost) every song hit me somewhere. My only complaint is the inclusion of Crown of Love, but I can just skip it every time I listen to the album. I still have yet to find an album where I listen to the ENTIRE thing without skipping a song, but I’m still searching!
My ultimate praise? If I had a record player, I’d buy this album and listen to it while writing or journaling or doing something where music with just enough feeling can accompany my creativity. My favorite albums are albums I can listen to at night, either alone with my thoughts or while making things, and this album fits the bill.
* I don’t know who this proverbial ‘everyone else’ was in my mind back in 2004, because it’s not like I had a slew of music loving friends at this time. Like I said, I must have been too cool, or something.
The vast majority of the time, I feel good about my life and the progress I’ve made in the past couple years in regards to my mental health, my impostor syndrome, and my day to day feelings. However, sometimes, a perfect storm of events occur that cause a bit of an imbalance in my life — a combination of work stress, personal stress, and apartment stress have been my reality this week and on Friday night, it all came to a head.
Here are steps I’ll be taking to help me process my feelings now and to build up more tools to help me in the next couple days to feel better. Note that these work for me, but may not be the best solutions for you!
Get out of the house. A change of scenery helps a LOT when I feel stress and sadness. Whether it’s a walk outside, driving to an event, or running some errands, leaving the house helps. So much.
Have a good cry. Until recently, I didn’t know what it was like to have a healthy, cleansing cry. These days, I’ve found that it helps a LOT to process emotions. To help this process, I put on some music, go on a drive, and let the tears fall. It may be a tiring process, but I feel WAY better after doing this. (Also, this goes along with leaving the house, so win win!)
REST. As I mentioned above, after a good cry, I’m usually really tired. So, what’s important if you can do it? Rest! It’s okay to rest, I promise. You may have family obligations or things you NEED to do, but if you can, take some time out of your day to take a breather. I know it helps me, so I’ll be spending the day listening to music and watching TV in between getting things done around the apartment.
Shake up my routine. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that I’ve been going through the motions in the mornings and evenings more than I’d like. I’ve been eating the same foods for breakfast, been reading the same book for a month or two, and I’ve been sitting on my couch and knitting every single night. It’s time to switch it up a little! Maybe I’ll try a new meal for breakfast. Maybe I’ll write at night instead of knit, or I’ll start a new knitting project. Maybe I’ll take a walk at a different time during the day. Either way, switching it up a little bit helps me feel better as well.
Embrace creativity. Making things always helps me feel better. Writing in my blog (hey, I’m doing this right now!), journaling, listening to music, and playing with my fountain pen inks are some of my favorite things to do to inspire creativity and to keep me moving forward. I’m thankfully never bored!
Since Friday, I’ve done a few of the items on this list, and I’m already feeling better. I’m glad I know what helps me when I’m feeling down, and I’m grateful for those in my life who support me as well. Thank you, everyone!
I know, it’s March and I’m just now writing about things I want to do this year! I don’t like calling them ‘goals’ so they are ‘things I want to do’ instead. If I do them, great, and if not, that’s fine too! Here’s my little list.
Run a half marathon. I consider the day I ran my half marathon one of the best days of my life, so I’d love to run another. At this point I can run about 30 minutes without stopping to walk, so I have to start training once the weather warms up enough for me to run in the mornings again.
Listen to full albums. I love listening to playlists, but I really miss listening to complete albums and falling in love with an artist that way. In the time of streaming music, album listening has fallen off my radar, but I’d like to change this in 2023.
Decorate my apartment. I have lived here for a year and a half and I’ve hung a few things up on the walls, but most of my apartment is pretty empty. I want to blame it on the fear of ruining my plaster walls, but no, I just don’t know how to decorate because I’ve moved every couple years my entire adult life. This changes now!
Roast a chicken. I’m 42 years old and have never roasted a chicken. Yep. I need to have my family over and just do it—I’m a decent cook, so I can’t screw this up! Hopefully. Those might be famous last words…
Get out of my head. I’m notoriously both hard on myself and overthink every word I write. Guess what, this combination sucks! I’m much happier with both my writing and my life when I’m not trapped inside the box I make for myself, so in 2023, now that I’ve done so much work on myself in other areas, it’s time to focus on this particular corner of my brain. Challenge accepted!