When Jimmy Tamborello asked his pal Ben Gibbard to add vocals to a song on Dntel's 2001 disc Life Is Full Of Possibilities, he surely had no idea that he was launching an electro-pop powerhouse whose debut would sell nearly a million copies and become an advertising-agency staple. But The Postal Service's Give Up—which combined Tamborello's catchy, glitchy electronic beds with the Death Cab frontman's ingratiating, fey vocals—hit pop paydirt. After just one American tour to support the disc, though, Gibbard felt the pull back to his main band, and Tamborello returned to his own slightly less pop-oriented electronic world, releasing an album as James Figurine and wrangling a gang of guest singers for Dumb Luck, his third album as Dntel.
Tamborello addresses his fluke success on the disc's title track, but that's the only place he sings or writes lyrics here: He's mostly content to provide clicky beds for other singers to luxuriate in, and he does an excellent job of pairing voices and sounds. Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear gets arid, meandering atmospheres and pretty acoustic guitar; Jenny Lewis gets the 78 RPM crackle and what sound like distorted slot machines for the sweet "Roll On"; Conor Oberst sounds terrific with spooky warbles and distorted slide guitar. With a different singer on each track—others include members of Lali Puna and singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd—Dumb Luck can't help but sound like a compilation, with peaks and valleys directly correlating to a taste for the vocals. Luckily, Tamborello picked some solid friends. No Gibbard this time around, though, but fear not: The duo is apparently hard at work—again via mail—on a second album.