The Postmarks – Memoirs At The End Of The World (2009)

FrontCover1The Postmarks are an indie pop band from Pompano Beach, Florida formed in 2004. They released three albums and an EP between 2006 and 2009.

The band formed in 2004 with an initial lineup of Tel Aviv-born Tim Yehezkely (vocals), who left her Chemistry course at Florida Atlantic University to join the band, along with multi-instrumentalists Christopher Moll and Jonathan Wilkins, who had both previously played in See Venus. Their self-titled album was released in February 2007 and has been met with critical acclaim from Rolling Stone and Spin, as well as Pitchfork Media, and a host of other publications. The group was discovered by Andy Chase of Ivy and subsequently released on his Unfiltered Records label. Before the release of the album, an EP of remixes was released on iTunes featuring remixes by James Iha, Brookville, Roger O’Donnell, Tahiti 80 and more.

In Spring 2007, the band toured North America with Smoosh and Memphis. The lineup expanded to include Jeff Wagner on keyboards and Brian Hill on bass guitar. A brief summer tour took place to coincide with the band’s appearance at the Lollapalooza festival. The group is featured in the “Love” episode of the Nick Jr. show, Yo Gabba Gabba!.

By the Numbers is a series of cover songs released every month of 2008 with each track containing a number in the title. The initial release of the series was exclusive to Emusic in the form of free downloads. The mp3s have since been removed, and the complete collection was released in November 2008. The album met with positive reviews, receiving a 7.4 rating from Pitchfork Media, and the Orlando Weekly saying “the album charms with a sense of whimsy”. PopMatters called it “a LP’s worth of surprisingly coherent recontextualisations…a luxuriating delight”. American Songwriter called it “Moody and Cool.”

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The band’s second album of original material titled Memoirs at the End of the World was released in 2009. The album received a 7.6 rating from Pitchfork Media, with Matthew Solarski calling it “a thing of pristine orchestrated pop beauty”. Following the release of the album, the most extensive touring to date took place, including the band’s first visit to Europe and a US tour with Stellastarr and Peter Bjorn and John.

The group went on hiatus since 2010. Tim Yehezkely has another project called Tim & Adam with Adam from I Am Stereo; They released a self-titled album in 2013. Christopher Moll has moved onto a self produced project with a retro-soul sound called The Lovers Key, along with singer Maco Monthervil. Jonathan Phillip continues with his personal music project Our Man In Pompano.

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The band’s music has been described as indie pop or chamber pop. Paul Lester, writing in The Guardian, described them as “a cutie version of Cowboy Junkies/Mazzy Star’s narcotic alt.country, Slowdive minus the feedback or Stereolab without the electronic effects”. (by wikipedia)

And this is their second album:

If the Postmarks’ delightful, weather-obsessed, self-titled 2007 debut didn’t quite catch fire, blame the times. As bands of musicologist types fronted by fetching lady singers go, the Miami trio doesn’t quite have the cosmopolitan chic of seductive NYC labelmates Ivy nor London’s dance culture-conscious Saint Etienne. Yet they’re not nearly as homespun as any number of pleated-skirt, jangly indie pop acts that live or die by the tambourine, BackCoverAeither. Up the shamble factor, and they could well be regulars at Indietracks and the NYC, Athens, and New England Popfests, not selling many records but cultivating a cultishly devout international fanbase happily adorned in “Tim Postmarks” one-inch buttons. Put on a little more polish, and they might find themselves music-supervisor darlings, routinely opening sold out concert hall tours for, say, Pink Martini. Instead? They’re in some kind of listener-demographic limbo, a Venn-diagram sliver between “professional” and “adorable”– and in today’s caste culture, that can spell utter obscurity.

The problem isn’t lost on the Postmarks, who, rather than dial it down DIY-ward, have ramped it up to the rafters with their second full-length collection of originals, Memoirs at the End of the World. In case the title and cover art didn’t clue you in, this is the Postmarks hopped up on some Mancini/Morricone/John Barry axis of cinephilia (something they touched on on last year’s cover outing By the Numbers) and embracing all the bold horns, cascading strings, and percussive panache that come with it. Lavish and evocative are the keywords here; there’s even a harpsichord effect on “Go Jetsetter”, a jazz trumpet outro on “Theme From ‘Memoirs'”, and some sitar business on the sumptuously arranged “All You Ever Wanted”. Several tracks also showcase a hitherto unheard grit: “Don’t Know Till You Try”, with its electronic chirps and dramatic brass, starts out sounding like a lite version of Broadcast’s “Pendulum”, while “For Better…Or Worse?” has all the tension of a spy thriller chase sequence, complete with a timpani-accented finale. Some more discerning listeners might rightly accuse the band of studio arsenal overkill, but for the most part Memoirs congeals into a thing of pristine orchestrated pop beauty. There isn’t a misstep on here, even if you probably won’t hear an out-and-out single either.

With the cinematic leanings, it’s tempting to position the Postmarks of Memoirs alongside Portishead, and, especially, the later Hooverphonic records, but vocalist Tim Yehezkely is in a decidedly different league. Rather than play the vamp here, Yehezkely sounds like the comely girl staring wistfully out the window on the cover of the first Postmarks disc. This is not a bad thing, and in fact can make for a compelling dialectic, akin to movie star theory’s great paradox that stars seem simultaneously “just like us” and of another world altogether. Yehezkely, with her limited range and slightly detached delivery, effectively bridges that gap between the music’s indulgent/escapist tendencies and our desire to connect with it despite that distance. With her the Postmarks very well may have found a way to speak to both of the indie pop worlds they once seemed so precariously caught between: an unlikely marriage of craft and unpracticed charm, and a music made for dreamers and by dreamers. Can’t wait for the sequel. (by Matthew Solarski)

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The Postmarks’ self-titled debut album had a quiet beauty that was founded in the trio’s love of Burt Bacharach, bossa nova, and the baroque pop sounds of late-’60s bands like the Left Banke. Centered on the whispered yet powerful vocals of Tim Yehezkely, the album had a restrained, rainy-day charm that made it one of the best pop albums of 2007. After an album of covers in 2008 (By-the-Numbers), the band came back in 2009 with a decidedly different-sounding album. Memoirs at the End of the World is still centered on Yehezkely’s lovely vocals, but instead of hazy, subtle arrangements, the group has gone all-out into the world of film music. They’ve traded the Bacharach for John Barry, the Astrud Gilberto for Shirley Bassey. The songs are tricked out in huge-sounding string sections, bombastic horns, atmospheric electronics, and all sorts of sounds you might hear in film scores from the 1960s. It’s an approach that is quite off-putting at first, especially if you were hoping for an album that sounded similar to the debut. Getting past the initial shock, though, some things become clear. The group still writes wonderfully melancholic (“No One Said This Would Be Easy,” “I’m in Deep”) and irresistibly catchy (“All You Ever Wanted,” “Go Jetsetter”) songs. Yehezkely sounds great as the chanteuse standing in the middle of the swirling cinematic setting, alternately breaking hearts and charming the pants off you with ease. Most importantly, though, is the realization that the Postmarks are darn good at writing, playing, arranging, and producing atmospheric film music. They’ve obviously absorbed lots of classic scores and studied great composers like Henry Mancini, John Barry, Lalo Schifrin, and Roy Budd.

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The music they’ve created here is clearly in debt to the sounds those men made, but remains a Postmarks product due to one simple fact: none of the aforementioned composers could have written pop songs as breezy and nonchalant as those found on Memoirs. There is an easy grace at the middle of their sound that is at odds with soundtrack music, an indie pop core that keeps the album from being overdone or fussy. Most of the credit has to go to Yehezkely’s intimate vocals and restrained lyrics; she keeps things grounded even when the harpsichords, strings, and horns threaten to carry the songs off. Even though the album may be enough of a stretch that it could chase away many of the band’s fans, if you give it a chance, Memoirs at the End of the World is a completely successful melding of the Postmarks’ autumnal sweetness with the elevated drama and epic nature of film scores. (by Tim Sendra)

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Personnel:
Christopher Moll (guitar, vocals)
Jon Wilkins (drums)
Tim Yehezkely (vocals)
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Brian Hill (bass)
Jeff Wagner (keyboards)
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Eddie Alonso (keyboards)
Ewa Bartlova (theremin)
David Bettencourt (harp)
Andy Chase (keyboards)
Paul Kenneth (vibraphone, timpani, percussion)
Stefan Klein (trumpet, cornet, french horn)
Freddy Palatzky (hammer dulcimer, harpsichord)
Rachel Plating (violin, viola, cello)
Jim Printerera (baritone guitar)
Harry Silbert (flute, clarinet)

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Tracklist:
01. No One Said This Would Be Easy 3.33
02. My Lucky Charm  4.34
03. Thorn In Your Side 3.29
04. Don’t Know Till You Try 3.09
05. All You Ever Wanted 5.01
06. Run Away Love 1.04
07. For Better…Or Worse? 3.20
08. I’m In Deep 3.48
09. Thorn In Your Side (Reprise) 1.34
10. Go Jetsetter 3.00
11. Theme From “Memoirs” 2.13
12. The Girl From Algenib 6.17
13. Gone 4.30
14. The End Of The World 1.22
15. Si Tu Veux Mon Coeur 4.09
16. My Lucky Charm (Joy Zipper Remix)     5:52
17. My Lucky Charm (Tahiti 80 Remix)     2:54
18. Go Jetsetter (James Iha Remix)     3:29
19. Go Jetsetter (The Album Leaf Remix)     4:15

All songs written by Christopher Moll – Jon Wilkins – Tim Yehezkel

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