Music Features

Before Its Time: The Doomsday Heartache of the Postal Service

Thirteen years after the Postal Service's only album, it remains a perfect blend of apocalyptic indie-electronica.

Back in 2003, before the United States Postal Service was at risk of imploding, its biggest kerfuffle was the cease and desist letter they sent to a certain indie band.

This band, of course, was the Postal Service—the new project of Ben Gibbard, who had already established himself in Pacific Northwest rock by this point as the frontman of Death Cab for Cutie. The USPS accused Gibbard and his bandmate, producer Jimmy Tamborello, of violating the agency's trademark mere months after their only album, Give Up, was released to generally positive acclaim.

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20 Music Predictions for the 2020s

What will our favorite artists be up to this decade?

Now that we're deep enough into 2020 that our New Year's Resolutions have wilted away, it's time to focus on things that matter most: what our favorite musicians will get up to in the decade to come.

A lot can happen in 10 years; hell, Spotify hadn't even hit the United States yet when the last decade began. Since 2010, the music world has been shook with Beyonce's surprise self-titled album, Lady Gaga's meat dress, Ariana Grande's massive benefit concert for Manchester, and Billboard revamping their Hot 100 formulations to include YouTube hits, making viral dance number "Harlem Shake" a surprise No. 1. So, what's next?

Here are 20 events we think could take the music world by storm in the 2020s.

-Grimes pivots from electropop's robo-queen to full-time mommy blogger. She and her unborn child's father, Elon Musk, reportedly launched an Instagram account for their baby, which has "family friendly spon-con" written all over it.

-Lizzo teaches a flute masterclass for those aspiring to follow her example of woodwind-assisted twerking.

-A documentary, or maybe even a hologram tour, of Mac Miller is created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his debut LP, Blue Slide Park.

Getty Images

-Too preoccupied by being obsessed with his wife, Chance the Rapper quietly retires from music.

-Ariana Grande dates a minimum of two high-profile, tattooed, skinny white men before tying the knot.

-Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy form a duo, Soccer Snail, and release an album together. They still get mistaken for each other.

-Facebook launches a music streaming platform.

-100 gecs headline a major music festival.

-Billboard starts factoring in TikTok plays to calculate songs' positions on the charts.

-Lil Nas X—already known to be a hit with kids—pens a Wild West-themed children's book, and a coinciding G-rated soundtrack.

-Post Malone opens a tattoo studio in New York City, further pushing the popularity of facial script tattoos.

-Drake makes a cameo in Euphoria, commencing his full return to acting.

-Following the Dixie Chicks' highly-successful comeback, they collaborate with Kacey Musgraves.

-It is revealed that Vampire Weekend frontman, Ezra Koenig, and his longtime partner, Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones, secretly got married years ago during an intimate ceremony at Columbia University's Butler Library.

-The Postal Service—the band with Ben Gibbard, not the government agency—reunite for a 20th anniversary performance of their sole album, Give Up.

-My Chemical Romance are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (they'll be eligible in 2027).

-Feeling inspired by his Sunday Service performance at Joel Osteen's megachurch, Kanye West opens his own megachurch near his home in Wyoming. Tourism in Wyoming reaches record highs as a result.

-Billie Eilish surpasses Van Halen in record sales.

-In the wake of the the climate crisis, an allegiance of major artists will cease touring to minimize their carbon footprint.

-Speaking of climate, Greta Thunberg launches her singer-songwriter career. Her breakout hit is a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," the original environmentalist anthem. It becomes a No. 1 hit, and Thunberg donates all the proceeds to various environmental groups.


In Memoriam of the Reddit Man Who Blew Up His Engagement Over a Wish Wedding Dress

Hell hath no fury like a dude with no power of introspection.

The internet may be full of actively ignorant know-it-alls who claim authority over topics they know nothing about, but perhaps none more unfortunate than the Reddit man who blew up his whole engagement over a wedding dress on Wish.

The self-fulfilling tragicomedy of Reddit user u/josh8449, henceforth known as "Josh," began like many an assh*le's journey to almost-self-awareness––with a post on r/AmITheAssh*le.

am i the asshl*e r/AmItheAssh*le / WIRED

For those out of the loop, "Am I the assh*le?" is a subreddit where posters present a situation wherein they might have been an assh*le, and the community judges whether or not they actually were. The most important rule for posters who pose questions is that, while they can answer queries for clarifying information, they must accept their judgment without argument. Of course, for many an assh*le, that's easier said than done.

Enter Josh, a 38-year-old man who wanted to know if he was the assh*le for telling his 27-year-old fiance, Emma, that "her wedding dress choice is way too extravagant and suggesting alternatives?"

Across a long wall of rambling, error-ridden text, Josh laid out his side of the story. The details went as follows:

-Josh and Emma were set to get married in July. The venue was booked.

-Both Josh and Emma had put aside $10,000 each from their own money to pay for the wedding.

-Emma found a dress she loved that cost $950 plus a $120 veil, for a total wedding outfit cost of $1070.

-Josh thought $1070 for a wedding dress was "insane" and, therefore, told Emma no.

-Josh did his own "quick google around at dresses online" and discovered "so many [dresses] just like the one emma wants for like $50 to $100" on a "reccomended [sic] app called Wish."

-Emma did not want to wear a $50 dress from Wish for her wedding. She clarified that she would be paying for the dress with her own money. Josh continued to insist that her money was also his money because "we ate [sic] about to marry and our finances will be joined." At this point, Emma's parents offered to pay for the dress, but Josh really wanted a hill to die on.

-"She is very slender but apparantly [sic] wants it specially fitted?"

-Emma finally decided that if Josh was going to try to assert this ridiculous level of control over her wedding dress choice that she was paying for with her own money, then she needed to consider whether they were actually a good match for marriage. Josh responded by yelling at her: "I told her she's like a toddler throwing a tantrum over a sparkly toy she can't have." This led Emma to go stay at her parents' house.

Man ruins marriage over wedding dress

Josh posted all of this online, wondering whether or not he was the assh*le...And, yes, Josh was deemed the assh*le––an overwhelming, whopping, unanimous conclusion.

Commenters flooded the thread, tearing Josh's dumb ideas apart piece-by-piece. Many of the responses primarily focused on Josh's fundamental ignorance about wedding fashion. Users ranging from former brides to actual wedding professionals attempted to inform Josh that the average wedding dress costs around $1,600––meaning that Emma's dress choice was actually a very reasonable price––but more importantly, that Wish is in no way a valid option for an actual wedding dress.

Wish, much like AliExpress, is a major Chinese e-commerce company that specializes in ridiculously cheap, low-quality, almost exclusively bootleg products that are oftentimes advertised using quality pictures of the authentic products they're imitating. Wish wedding dresses have actually taken on a memetic status amongst fashion and wedding-oriented communities due to their extreme variance from the displayed images, with YouTubers jumping on the bandwagon. "It is really funny when expectations are so far from reality," said fashion YouTuber Tina Yong to Insider.

Thousands of people relayed this information to Josh with overwhelming unity, hardly a dissenter amongst them. But Josh, hard-headed fool that he was, could not handle the possibility that he might actually be *gasp* wrong. And so he broke the cardinal rule of "Am I the Assh*le?" and argued with the consensus. For whatever inane reason, no matter how much anyone tried to help him to understand, Josh simply would not accept that Wish was not a quality option for wedding dresses.


While Josh proceeded to rack up thousands of downvotes with his rebuttals, commenters started to press on the bigger issues. For instance, should Emma really stay in a relationship with a man who is 11 years older than she is and continually insists that he was right to control her, yell at her, and call her names? Was this a one-off due to the stress of wedding planning, or was Emma trapped in an abusive relationship? As the commenters sounded off, Josh grew increasingly unhinged. [Sic] in advance: "It's not even a big age gap! i am not preying on her, you can't say or see if someone is abusive or controlling over a freaking dress ."


Then Emma found the thread. We know this because Josh, as he continued to argue with commenters, essentially live-posted himself getting drunk, fighting with Emma's parents over the phone, and eventually blaming other people in the thread (and also "sjw") for ruining his relationship. It was around this time that Josh finally got banned.

But hell hath no fury like a dude with no power of introspection, and so Josh decided to start sending angry private messages to posters whom he believed were responsible for his deteriorating relationship. Again, [sic] in advance: "f*ck this f*ck . it . all and f*ck emma for believing strangers on the internet over her fiancee of 2 f*cking years."


josh8449 pm

Except the story doesn't end there. In a later, since removed post on r/relationships, a user named u/throwawaywedding22 suggested she was Emma from Josh's post and provided further context for the situation. Amongst the new details, Emma revealed that Josh lied about their ages. She is only 23. He is 43. There is a 20 year age gap. Moreover, Emma is the primary breadwinner. Josh makes just above minimum wage and did not, in fact, contribute $10,000 of his own money to the wedding. Rather, Josh threw in $5,000 and Emma covered the rest.

Emma clarified that the wedding hasn't been called off just yet, but one has to hope that Josh's post was a major wake-up call. When asked for a comment via Reddit, Emma replied, "Listen to your parents, listen when people tell you the age gap is too big and stay calm, im humiliated and still trying to navigate all of this without breaking down." If any good comes out of the whole situation, it is most certainly the fact that Emma gets a chance to dodge a bullet before she's legally tied to one.

And for any folks out there who may be empathizing with Josh, let this be a lesson: When you don't know what you're talking about and someone with more information corrects you, maybe, just maybe, try to listen. Just remember: It's not about a dress, buddy. It's about you.

*u/josh8849 has been contacted for comment, but has not responded as of the time of publication.

Like few other acts of the 21st century, the Postal Service were one of those acts you really had to be there for. The duo, comprised of laptop-pop producer Jimmy Tamborello and star indie frontman (if such a descriptor can be used non-oxymoronically) Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, came along at a time when the previously sizable chasm between underground pop music and traditional independent rock was getting smaller, and though it was surprising to hear one of the most recognizable voices in indie singing corny love songs over saccharine-sweet bleep-bloop beats, it wasn't all that jarring either.

Soon, thanks to the success of shows like The O.C. and movies like Garden State, whose popular indie-heavy soundtracks would break artists like The Shins and Spoon to entirely new audiences, crossover indie successes were a much more common occurrence. But the Postal Service were arguably the first, and certainly one of the most successful of these word-of-mouth underground successes. Their debut album Give Up certainly ranks as one of the most unlikely platinum albums of the '00s, but it took nearly a decade to reach that status, seemingly only spread by high school friends and college dorm-mates sharing the album with one another.

Of course, it had a big single to help sell their case. The historically catchy "Such Great Heights" was about as popular as a song can be without ever actually being a hit—the song never charted anywhere, but remains known by a whole lot of people, and actually went gold separately from the album. That's largely because though the song was never really on radio, it was just about everywhere else—TV shows like Veronica Mars and Grey's Anatomy (where it briefly served as the theme), commercials for Target, and (appropriately) UPS, and movies like the aforementioned Garden State (via a folky cover from Iron & Wine, one of dozens of artists to take the song on). "Heights" was a 21st-century type of "hit," one advanced over internet sharing and multi-platform exposure, rather than conventional big-budget promotion and incessant radio/MTV play.

The popularity of Give Up and "Such Great Heights" snowballed to a point where it seemed like the group's next effort might be a mainstream smash like the indie world had rarely seen before. But a follow-up never materialized. Gibbard went back to Death Cab For Cutie, where he had his most successful album to date with the platinum-selling Plans, and Tamborello recorded a couple more albums under his dNTEL alias (where he first collaborated with Gibbard, for the excellent "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan"), but the Postal Service were effectively dead to rights, with the two members being disarmingly casual about not taking advantage of their unexpected success as collaborators. "The anticipation of the second record has been a far bigger deal for everybody except the two of us," explained Gibbard, frustratingly. "There never really was a plan to do a second album."

Gradually, that much-dreaded "anticipation" died out, and today, memories of the Postal Service's moment in the sun are faint. The duo's laptop-pop sound has dated fairly poorly—and to be honest, it sounded kind of cheap even back then—and with Dr. Luke and his ilk running the sound of pop music in the 2010s, the skittering beats and heavy synths of Give Up sound downright quaint by comparison. With the multi-media omnipresence of "Such Great Heights" long faded away, and no home for it on any kind of repertory radio, if you weren't around for the Postal Service in 2003, you would be easily forgiven for not knowing they ever even existed.

However, nearly ten years after their breakthrough, the group finally took proactive steps this morning to remind pop and indie fans of their existence. Billboard reports that the duo will be reuniting in advance of the tenth-anniversary reissue of Give Up, and though they will not be recording new music or touring extensively, they will at the least be playing their first live date of the '10s at this year's Coachella Music Festival. ("There are no plans to make a second record...I can't say that enough," protested Gibbard in October. OK, OK, Ben, we get it.) From a duo who often seemed irritated by those who insisted on remembering that they used to be a thing as a duo, it's a big step.

It will be interesting to see if the now 20-and-30-somethings that fell for the Postal Service ten years ago still care about their impossibly sincere brand of emotive, tech-y pop music, or if they will have outgrown them, like they outgrew making mix CDs for crushes and arguing about whether Seth should have chosen Anna or Summer during the O.C.'s first season. In any event, news of a Postal Service reunion will certainly bring back a whole lot of memories for those of us around for and impacted by their brief reign, and will undoubtedly have us tapping out the intro to "Such Great Heights" on any hard surface we can find as we struggle for weeks on end to get the song out of our heads. Summer always was way cooler than Anna, anyway.