Give Up

Band: The Postal Service
Album: Give Up
Best song: “Brand New Colony” and “Such Great Heights” are great.
Worst song: “Recycled Air” isn’t great.

This month is one of anniversaries for me. In sadness, it’s May is used to recount tremendous emptiness that comes with losing someone you love. In happiness, it’s the month of Mother’s Day, a close friend’s birthday and my graduation from college and graduate school.

Indeed, were I to walk, the American University’s commencement is this upcoming Saturday, May 9. I’m not going to walk in the commencement ceremony for many reasons, but I’ve yet to really bring them all together in my head.

No question, the notion of finishing graduate school is something of which to be proud. I am proud of my time in American University’s School of Communication. It was part-time — Saturdays for 20 months — and those six-day weeks were not fun. I met some good friends — hi, Jen! — and made some small networking connections.

I’m not one for birthdays, largely because they represent something I can’t really enjoy: the celebration of one person. At their heart, birthday celebrations aren’t something with which I disagree. Indeed, everyone should have their day and be able to have friends celebrate. A recent birthday in which I was a part was amazing. The featured person adored it and had a wonderful time.

Nonetheless, I have trouble with my own birthday — it’s in February — largely because “not dying” (for a period of 365) does not constitute something of celebration.

Anyway, the notion of my gaining my Master’s is something of pride for me. I’ve been working a full-time job for the entirety of the program and was working on my RS albums project for the first year of it. And, indeed, like the RS project, I’m really proud I finished my graduate degree. I’d like to have my friends come over and hang out with me, just to say “congrats.”

But, a few factors have me not walking. The first is that I don’t want to deal with the out-of-town people coming in to see me walk. It’s unlikely that my sister would come in from San Diego. And it’s sorta unlikely that my dad would come in from Chicago. My mom desperately wanted me to walk, but I didn’t want to deal with having people in town.

Moreover, the ceremony is three hours long and I’d have to rent a cap and gown at a cost of $85. I’d rather get my car fixed Saturday and play wiffle ball with my friends than sit in an uncomfortable robe in May D.C. heat.

Also, I’m disappointed in American University for a number of reasons that do not need recounting here. I loved a lot of my professors in thsi program and was happy with a lot of aspects of the program, but other things left me wanting.

I have no record of my review of the Postal Service album; it was written and never saved onto my newer computers. It was long and it dealth with many of the same issues I’ve run over in writing about other Ben Gibbard works.

The review was one of my final ones for KCOU as the album came out the second semsester of my senior year of college. I mostly mentioned the notion of Gibbard and his place in music going forward. It mostly talked about the direction of emo.

I’m struggling to describe it here. I really wish I had a copy of that review.

I’ve recently joked that I want my friends to call me “Master” from now on, especially if/when someone asks me about journalism. Indeed, I have now “mastered” the subject, despite being mostly a peaon at a niche Web site written for Federal employees.

Ultimately, I’m not sure I know what having a Master’s does for me. I’m not in the business field; a new degree does little for me both monetarily and respect-wise. I guess I could get a job teaching journalism part-time somewhere. Where, I don’t know. Basically, I’ve read some books and written some papers. I’ve given American University almost $40,000. I spent two years of my life worrying — albeit not that much — about school I didn’t need to attend.

Overall, I’m glad I talked about and learned about my craft. Journalism, as it is, is going extinct and I’m OK with that. There’s an inherent middle-man quality to journalism. With the Internet, there’s now little need for newspapers to recap what happened yesterday. TV and newspapers will be a space for commentary and partisan hackery.

Neverthless, I’m someone who knows something about media now, for better or for worse. I can tell you all about media myths and research strategies and the principles of journalism, as to the notion of Kovach and Rosensteil.

I guess that’s the notion of education somtimes. My actual knowledge of these things isn’t necessarily useful; it simply expands my own thinking into something more. I know about a couple of things — baseball and the humor of 30 Rock come to mind — but I don’t know a ton about journalism. Everyone sort of does and I just hope that I’ve learned something in these past two years.

I don’t want to reiterate everything I’ve already written about Gibbard and the nature of his writing. But, it’s there. Gibbard’s poeticism lies in his ability to touch the teenage hearts of adults like myself. Hey, why not. I’ll quote myself:

Gibbard’s writing defines this. His lovelorn and simple lyrics hardly have the tone of McCartney, Lennon or fellow Washingtonian Cobain but rather read like overwrought prose, albeit pleasant and relatable overwrought prose. Side project The Postal Service was a an exercise in such lyrics (Sample 1: “I want so badly to believe that there is truth and love is real.” Sample 2: “I am thinking it’s a sign. That the freckles in our eyes. Are mirror images and when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned.”) and his Death Cab work — while more nuanced — relies on similar emotive responses.

And the Postal Service record is, basically, Gibbard’s adolescent romanticism boiled down to its core. “Brand New Colony” is decidedly teenage; nuance isn’t really part of the song. The song’s main character simply knows that he is in love and that he’s going to create a place wherein he and his girlfriend can live. It’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” for a new generation.

And Jimmy Tamborello helms the production in a way that highlights the futuristic sound of the record. The album’s charisma is undeniable; Tamborello and Gibbard work catchy hooks into nearly every song. It’s no surprise that many of the songs have ended up on TV shows and commercials.

There are tinges of the strange on the record. “We Will Become Silhouettes” has lyrics that echo a post-apocalyptic world. “Recycled Air” recounts a fear of flying with apt lyricism. “This Place Is A Prison” sort of describes hipster bars as death and “Sleeping In” has a tough string of references, including the Kennedy assassination and global warming.

But, overwhelmingly, the album is about love. “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” is a tale of breakups and mobile young adults. “Clark Gable” is the break song couched in the beauty of film. “Brand New Colony,” as mentioned, speaks of starting the new colony of puppy love. “Such Great Heights” has the inconic tale of mirror-imaged lovers.

“Brand New Colony” is probably the album’s best song, though. Enlisting Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis to duet with Gibbard, the song recounts a one-sided breakup, as Gibbard fights to keep a relationship alive. The song’s is nuanced and true; as realistic as Lily Allen’s “Who’d Have Known” but far sadder. The song’s uneven perspectives — Allen says Gibbard is making shit up, Gibbard is pouring his heart out — hit far too close to home to someone like myself. Gibbard won’t let go, but Lewis has the last word, as if often happens in relationships. It’s aching and final, as many relationships are.

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