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Throwback Thursday: The Postal Service, ‘Such Great Heights’

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly series showcasing an album, single, music video or performance of a bygone era and its personal and/or cultural significance.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love with music?

I was sitting in my family office in the fall of 2006 – we had only recently moved into a two-story house tucked in the corner of quiet suburban northern Virginia, and I had just started my sophomore year at a brand new high school. I was pouring through my friends’ Myspace profiles listening to their featured songs, looking for new music to keep me preoccupied from my algebra homework. My online travels led me to a friend of a friend’s profile, an “indie kid” who often eschewed the angsty emo I was so regularly immersed in for spirited underground alternative rock. I saw he had a fresh song on his profile, one I was unfamiliar with, and so I clicked play.

I was expecting the skeletal strumming of a lonely guitar or a twangy bass line to kick the track off, but instead received quite the opposite. A flock of bubbly beeps ping-ponged from my left to right ear, and as the synthy bass began to stir softly underneath the glitchy instrumentation, gleeful warmth spread through every inch of my body. A rhythmic tap, tap, tap brought in the vocalist, a man with a thin voice that broke slightly every time he tried to hit a high note. He sang sincerely to his lover, threading abstract metaphors throughout his plainspoken admiration to show the complexity and strength of his desire. Then everything coalesced together in the chorus with a cathartic rush, and I realized the song’s title was more than just a repeat of the refrain. I was elevated just listening to it, a feeling I hadn’t experienced through my many mixed CDs stuffed with raucous rock and emo.

The Postal Service’s freshman (and only) album Give Up, which the just described song “Such Great Heights” hails from, was released in 2003 on Sub Pop Records. It was at the time, and in many ways still is, a pivotal record for the progression of music. It became one of the most commercially successful albums on the Sub Pop label, second to only Nirvana’s Bleach. It foreshadowed an era of radio pop that wouldn’t come to fruition until nearly six years after its release, when electronic instrumentation finally became the go-to production style. It also was a standout in early 2000s electronica, alternative rock, and pop for its seamless merging of genres into a (still, to this day) unique, unparalleled sound.

But on that day back in 2006, its flagship single “Such Great Heights” was pivotal in my personal evolution as a music fanatic. It showed me music could do something extraordinary – it could make you feel strongly about situations you had never experienced. Though I wouldn’t personally experience the feeling until almost ten years after that day, when a man held my hand as I drove him through the bustling streets of D.C. to catch his train, Lorde purring softly from the radio, “Such Great Heights” gave sixteen-year-old me a glimpse of what it’s like to be in love.

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Chris Will

A DMV resident and aspiring pop music pro, Chris spends most of his free time playing rugby for the LGBTQIA rugby team the Washington Scandals and day dreaming of everyone Lorde could (and should) collaborate with.