Gibbard, who has confessed a deep affection for Hall and Oates, stumbles into problems typical of any neophyte fiction writer, penning precious, sap-sopped lyrics that border on the cliché and waylay the effervescence of the music. I won't be the last to wince at the lines "I am thinking it's a sign/that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images/And when we kiss they're perfectly aligned" (from "Such Great Heights") and "Last night I had a strange dream/Where everything was exactly how it seemed/Where there was never any mystery/of who shot John F. Kennedy" (from "Sleeping In").
On some tracks, a melee erupts between slow, sad lyrical intent and the peppy blips and bleeps of keyboard finger poetry. This is righted a bit by wan, beautiful backing vocals from Jen Wood and Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, who hold notes long enough to sound less like singers and more like instruments. Overall, Give Up is hardwired for happy thoughts or, at least, thoughts that pass like trees outside a train window.