[15 July 2004]
There is something beautiful and, indeed, mood-lifting about melancholy. There is a certain type of sadness that is healing, a sense of mild sorrow that only serves to heighten one’s sense of being alive. Brazil’s Postal Blue explores this almost paradoxical emotion with the opening lines of the band’s first full-length album International Breeze, when lead singer Adriano Ribeiro croons “when it rains you go outside.” “Rainy Day” is about a nameless “you” who not only enjoys miserable weather but is saddened by beauty, namely, the smell of flowers. Not only is “Rainy Day” as close to a perfect pop song as I have heard all year, it also neatly describes and embodies the odd but very real pleasures of melancholy, the emotion that drives the entire album.
“Rainy Day” was also the standout song on the Humblebee Records sampler Hey, Where’d the Summer Go?, but I was unsure whether Postal Blue’s debut on Shelflife would show a band of talent or reveal “Rainy Day” to be a mere fluke. For better or worse, the catchy “Rainy Day” does turn out to be something of a fluke on this languorous album. Only the previously released “Weather Sensitive” shares the pop smarts and toe-tapping tempo of “Rainy Day”. The rest of the album, by comparison, is much subtler, much more unassuming.
Postal Blue aims to create a general mood of aimless, beautiful depression by combining the dreamy gauze of shoegazer music with the airy beauty of their home country’s bossa nova. This results in an intoxicating combination of genres that generally eschews the concise pop format. The individual tracks are less songs than explorations of mood and tonal color, even Ribeiro’s breathy, gender-ambiguous vocals (think Astrud Gilberto meets Morrissey) act as just another layer in a tangled concoction of sound where it is even impossible to separate what sounds are coming from acoustic guitars and what sounds are being made by electric ones.
Some would label International Breeze a “mood piece”, perhaps suggesting that it would be suitable only for background music for an immature outburst of brooding. This description would be unfair. The joy and beauty that Postal Blue finds in its exploration of, well, “blue” moods elevates this album from what a Nick Hornby character would deride as “sad bastard music”. The ideal listener for Postal Blue’s compositions is the same type of person described in “Rainy Day”: those who find a sense of joy in the depressing and a sense of depression in the joyful. The ideal Postal Blue audience recognizes that music born out of melancholy soothes pain and makes the happy moments seem even happier.
The sheer beauty of this album probably blinds me from its faults. The band’s emphasis on mood over song structure leads to songs that start nowhere and go nowhere, lacking any real sense of purpose or direction. Again, “Rainy Day” and “Weather Sensitive” are the only tracks that reveal that Postal Blue has any real ability to produce memorable, concise songs. The album, in its emphasis on rainy days and “Kisses and Smiles”, remains monochromatic in nature, stretching its sound only with a mere handful of halfhearted, cosmetic flourishes such as the blasts of trumpet on “Three Words” or the Magical Mystery Tour sound collage that ends the penultimate “Tell Me”.
Still, it seems equally unfair to call conscious stylistic choices, “faults”. The effortless melodies of “Rainy Day” and “Weather Sensitive” prove that the band has the ability to shift their sound into a more concise direction, as if to prove to the listener that the album’s general lack of focus is deliberate. Postal Blue aims to resurrect summertime idleness, an essentially directionless state of being. The band succeeds; International Breeze is a perfect album of glorious mope rock that leaves the listener anything but depressed. The only truly depressing aspect of this album is that it is pretty much guaranteed to be entirely ignored, even by cult audiences. Here’s hoping a handful of self-involved, overly-sensitive college freshmen stumble upon this soon-to-be-overlooked gem, because otherwise I fear that it will quickly vanish.