The recent reissue of The Postal Service’s ‘Give Up’ was a telling reminder of how many projects appear to have been influenced by it. Essentially it was a spin-off project between Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and producer Jimmy Tamborello released ten years ago, which slowly and surely became a set text for electronic producer/singer duos. We’re still waiting for a follow-up but in its absence Dark Dark Horse are definitely worth a listen. Like the Postal Service, it’s a partnership borne out of different acts, in this case current Maybeshewill producer Jamie Ward and James Stafford (from Kids In Cars).
Warm and world weary, Stafford is the kind of frontman who immediately provides a comforting presence. Add to this set-up Ward’s melodic, electronic accompaniment and clearly the duo are on to a winner. ‘Sharks’ is a great way to start the record. Ward’s clicks and whirrs and clean, tuneful hooks provide the perfect backdrop for Stafford’s careworn vocal. ‘In A Lifetime Before’ recalls the bittersweet songwriting of Her Space Holiday and even if Stafford sounds particularly fed up on both ‘Ethics’ and ‘The Sound Of Muscles That Have Frozen Closed’, the contrast between his melancholy and Ward’s upbeat key changes works so well it doesn’t matter. Indeed, only towards the end of ‘Centuries’ does the material begin to sound a little formulaic; the impression leavened somewhat by ‘Mercury Nevada’ which changes tack with a lengthy piano interlude, some sturdy Teutonic synths and rhythms and Stafford’s most moving performance.
‘Centuries’ lacks the variety to truly be called a great album; its rather one-paced approach restricting any sense of urgency. However, its main calling cards are its warmth of delivery and inherent tunefulness, which are the hallmarks of so many great bands operating in this genre. So The Postal Service may be missing in action but their legacy lives on and a second album from Dark Dark Horse should be similarly welcomed.
The Postal Service, Athlete, Maybeshewill