Before I heard any of the material from The Postmarks self-titled debut, I found myself bopping around in candy-colored ecstasy to the Cassettes Won’t Listen remix of the album’s first single, “Goodbye.” And while CWL definitely injects the song with a heavy dose of his own sensibility—making an indie-electro jam of it in the process—the focus remains the featherweight sweetness of Tim Yehezkely’s voice. Both vulnerable and assertive, it enchanted me enough that I quickly managed to track down the original. Couched in lushly arranged strings, chiming guitars and celebratory horns, her voice evokes something different: the bittersweet sensation of staring from the window of a train as a chapter in life is left behind. As she delivers her farewell to a lover who has fallen from favor, she seems like someone eagerly setting out on a new journey, someone whispering hello to a new beginning; one imagines a conspiratorial smile belying the melancholic undertones of her voice.
The Postmarks may describe the milieu in which their songs are crafted as a “heartbreak factory,” and while they are dusted with subtle variations of sadness, there is something unmistakably jubilant in them as well. They are overtly melancholic, but the band is delighting in melancholy, not exorcising it. In fact, it seems that this Miami based trio excels at extricating the melancholic aspect of human experience from the bright and flashy packaging of endless sunny days and sparkling albino beaches. Many of their songs (among them, “Summers Never Seem to Last,” “Looks Like Rain” and “Winter Spring Summer Fall”) are meditations on human relationships which rely heavily on imagery focused upon the changing of seasons and the characteristic weather which accompanies them. Having lived in a city blessed with an abundance of sunshine, I can attest to the fact that people of a certain disposition begin to romanticize rainy days, which are few and far between. Nor is it unusual to long for distinct seasons in which one can perceive an analogue to the fluctuations of human emotion. Yehezkely’s lyrics reflect both attitudes.
Sometimes it is necessary to create art which objectifies sadness, seen as authentic experience, in response to the unreality apparent in paradisiacal locales. The Postmarks are up to something like this. But while Yehezkely’s lyrics have a focus and tone from which they do not stray significantly, the songs themselves, composed by Christopher Moll, are diffuse, evincing a thorough saturation in the history of pop music. They sometimes seem like a series of strictly focused black and white images, dramatized, specific, as on “Know Which Way the Wind Blows” or “You Drift Away”; at other times they are suffused with vibrant color, washing over the listener like an ethereal glaze. On the first few listens, the album passes by like a pleasant daydream, feet up, reclined in a comfy chair. Each track seems better understood in the context of the whole, both the sentiment of the lyric and the textures of the music. Upon further listens, things change, the songs seem to separate, their particular moods become more recognizable. As each song pulls away from the whole, the album grows in depth and dimension.
In the end, listening to The Postmarks feels a bit like looking at the same thing from different angles. There is always something to be discovered beneath the songs’ warm exterior. Sometimes it makes you want to cry and sometimes it makes you want to explode in laughter. You may stare at the same spot on the ceiling, the album on repeat, while your imagination expands and contracts, fixes on the invisible horizon between equally blue sea and sky which slowly dissolves into the image of rain drops slithering down foggy window panes. Animated with the kind of subtlety and tenderness that often proves timeless, The Postmarks’ debut is sure to be one of 2007’s most singularly compelling albums.