by: The Postmarks

In 2008, the Postmarks released a new song digitally every month, each song being a cover version of a tune featuring a number in the title that corresponded to the number of the month -- a pretty good idea to fight off the blahs of a tanking music industry and the rigors of recording an album all at once. The songs were all collected and released in November under the title By-the-Numbers. While many of the songs the group selected to cover are intriguing (Ride's "OX4" and the Ramones' "7-11"), inspired (the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Nine Million Rainy Days"), or totally left-field (the Ventures' "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue"), many are also somewhat obvious (the Bond theme "You Only Live Twice," Jobim's "One Note Samba"), ill-suited for the group (the Byrds' "Eight Miles High," David Bowie's "Five Years"), or just plain wrong (Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds"). Luckily, the band treats each song, even the less interesting ones, with a great deal of care and sympathy, wrapping them in warm clouds of reverb and gentle instrumentation that capture the autumnal melancholic beauty that their first album had. Tim Yehezkely's vocals prove up to the task of interpreting each song wonderfully as well (save the version of "Five Years," which just wasn't made for hushed reflection); she gives the sad songs a bucketload of pathos and keeps things somewhat breezy on the more lighthearted tracks. Some songs work better than others, mainly the ones that seem like strange picks. Their take on "OX4" strips away the epic nature of Ride's original and gets to the core of the song's intrinsic loneliness. (Oddly enough, the song ends up sounding more like the Cure than the version of the Cure's "Six Different Ways" the band attempts later.) Also defying expectations are the sprightly girl group-inspired "7-11" that comes complete with Spector-ized percussion, a surprisingly rocking version of Blondie's "11:59," and a totally surprising overhaul of "Eight Miles High" that turns the song into a Morricone-esque epic. Apart from a couple fumbles, By-the-Numbers turns out to be a successfully executed concept and a very pleasant listen. A proper follow-up with original compositions would have been preferable, but as holding patterns go, this one is just fine. ~ Tim Sendra

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