The single is, apparently, not dead after all. As addendums to the remarkable full-length from The Postal Service, two singles are packaged as creative and necessary bonuses, like foreplay and spooning — and coming dangerously close to making the coital long-play act this year’s Give Up, unnecessary.
Of the two singles — one for opening track “The District Sleeps Tonight,” the other for Death Cab-esque “Such Great Heights” — it’s the former that most encapsulates the spirit of the band itself. It’s synth-y, playful, with songs fit for soundtracks and detailed lyrics in hushed diary whispers. The title track is reprised in dance form, speeding up the music but dragging singer Ben Gibbard’s vocals to a heavy plod, perhaps not as emotive as the original “District,” but with a more potent climax. It’s followed by a predictable and corny remix of “Such Great Heights,” and ends with an essential cover of the Flaming Lips “Suddenly Everything Has Changed.”
The cover on its own is enough to sell the single. Its loyal to the original in structure and pacing, but replaces the orchestral drama of the Lips’ version with vocal “ahhs,” like the song might have sounded on Abbey Road or Odessey and Oracle. It’s better than all but three songs on Give Up, two of which, anyway, are on this single.
On “Such Great Heights,” Gibbard includes the album version of the title track, along with a non-album track — “There’s never enough time,” more like a Mark Mothersbaugh interlude than a stand-alone song. Sub Pop labelmates the Shins and Iron and Wine finish the disc with covers of Give Up tracks. Iron and Wine slogs through a dead, but strangely powerful, acoustic reading of “Such Great Heights,” dramatically changing syllable emphasis, key, and tempo. The Shins improve “We Will Become Silhouettes” by playing it as a more or less straight-ahead rock song. The Albequerque band actually tones down its own weirdness, succesfully topping the original version.