Revisiting: DNTEL – Life Is Full Of Possibilities

Inspired by relistening to a random Stars album, I’m continuing visiting albums that are beloved to me that I haven’t listen to in years. You know, life gets in the way, they older you get, the busier you get, and trying to keep up with new music. Now I’m quarantined and have a lot more time on my hands, I’ve got chance to go back in time a lil bit and see how these albums hold up. This week, I’m going back to the Postal Service creator, the indietronica catalyst, the glitch innovator, the debut album from Jimmy Tamborello, aka DNTEL, Life Is Full Of Responsibilities.

Possibilities’ is the bearer of many ridiculous sub-genre names that just don’t make any sense. IDM, Intellectual Dance Music, really? That’s literally so insulting to many great EDM artists, and is basically saying that electronic dance music is for dummies. Folktronica, what even is that? A mix of folk and electronica? Show me the folk music on this album. Just because there are singers that don’t use vocal coaches doesn’t mean it’s folk, alright. Or is it another preposterous way of saying this music is above everybody else, by saying it’s more honest. These seriously stupid sub-genres give the impression that this music is above other music, which isn’t true.

Having said that… Life Is Full Of Possibilities is much better than most music. It’s therapeutic, it’s relaxing, it has feeling and instils emotion in to listeners. The lyrics, the delivery, the slow grooves, the exclusive choices of guest features; it all congeals in to this, well, I could go in to some extremely hyperbolic metaphor about how it makes me feel, but the point is, it’s just beautiful.

Not only is the record beautiful, but it’s historic too. Life Is Full Of Posibilities low-key started a musical movement. I’m sure you are. More likely to have heard of The Postal Service than DNTEL. The Postal Service is the duo made up of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and DNTEL’s own Jimmy Tamborello, which continued their collaboration after the incredibly successful ‘Possibilities’ single, “This is the Dream of Evan and Chan,” which is the defining song of indietronica and it never got better after that. Though The Postal Service’s depressingly optimistic indie-pop did come close.

The music on ‘Possibilites’ is much different to the Postal Service. Very rarely is this record dance-y. It’s barely even rhythmic. It’s just electronic experiments and more than anything, to me, it’s ambient. It’s music to soundtrack a rainy day, and nothing says that more than the opener, “Umbrella,” a chopped up, mopey introduction that details the vibe to the listener immediately.

Life Is Full Of Possibilities is a positive title for such a characteristically depressive album that instils fear of the future in to the listener, which brings me to the lyrics. There aren’t many of them, just repeated mantras, and those mantras really sink in. Those few repeated words make you think 10,000 more words. They just linger. The great thing is that people can interpret them in so many different ways. For me, the record is clearly about depression, not just about being depressed, but battling depression and trying to overcome it. And the way the lyrics are delivered are so sweet and soothing.

In DNTEL’s 2nd album, Dumb Luck, guest features from celebrated indie artists became DNTEL’ s little trick. The music served the features, but the reason Life Is full Of Possibilities remains as great to this day is that the guests are there to almost serve the music. There aren’t even that many features on ‘Possibilities;’ four of the ten tracks feature guest spots, albeit brief guest spots. They are used like instruments. The record must have done wonders for those guests too, as Possibilities introduced me to some wonderful independent artists such as Mia Doi Todd, Meredith Figurine, and Rachel Haden.

Life Is Full Of Possibilities still holds up, and it always will hold up if the listener isn’t a complete emotionless monster. It sounds weird, but Tamborello even manages to make static sound blissful on the record, and that’s part of the magic of it, finding beauty in sounds you never thought you could. DNTEL’s debut isn’t something to spin all the time, it isn’t full of bangers or tracks you can sing along to, but when you’re in the right mindset, it’s a completely therapeutic experience.

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