Postcards release sophomore album ‘The Good Soldier’

Postcards is Lebanon’s dream-pop, indie-folk and slowcore pioneers. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Postcards release sophomore album ‘The Good Soldier’

  • Frontwoman Julia Sabra discusses the Lebanese indie band’s new record and their growing popularit

BEIRUT: “I feel this album is more angry than sad,” says Julia Sabra, singer and guitarist in Postcards — Lebanon’s dream-pop, indie-folk and slowcore pioneers. She’s nursing a fruit juice on a rainy Beirut morning in December at a local coffeeshop, as she discusses her band’s sophomore studio album, “The Good Solider.” The air is thick with introspection and atmosphere.

Incidentally, atmosphere is exactly what Sabra and her two bandmates — guitarist Marwan Tohme and drummer Pascal Semerdjian — do best. Since their founding in 2013, Postcards have established themselves as one of their country’s most exciting indie exports. Their unique, shoegaze-colored sound, a small army of fervently committed fans, and the fact that they sing in English in a region where the most commercially viable acts are of the Arabic pop variety, all make their ascent to prominence even more intriguing.

Sabra is soft-spoken and eloquent, much like the vocal lines she delivers with vulnerability, discreet composure and tempestuous emotion. 2018’s folksy “I’ll Be Here in the Morning” was recorded when there were still four band members. They amicably parted ways with bassist Rany Bechara shortly after the release of the debut album, which the singer says tightened the dynamic between the three remaining members. “Weirdly, the less people you have, the more powerful the sound is; so, now it’s less about intricacy, and more about the atmosphere you create,” she explains.




One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of the Postcards sound is that you could easily assume they’re from somewhere in the American Midwest. (Supplied)

“The first album was a trial of something new for all of us, and we felt very comfortable with it,” Sabra says of the first LP, on the back of which they scored a record deal and performances at both local and international festivals, as well as tours in Jordan, Dubai, the UK, France, Portugal, Italy and Germany, and opening spots for indie luminaries Beirut, and Angus and Julia Stone.

“The second album took everything a step further and we were able to explore more,” she continues. “We didn’t consciously set out to make it different from the first one... we just follow the music, really. ‘The Good Soldier’ is a natural continuation of our sound.”

One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of the Postcards sound is that you could easily assume they’re from somewhere in the American Midwest. “I feel like we express ourselves in a different language,” Sabra explains. “Our music is not specifically linked to our region. We live here, we speak Arabic to each other and our friends and families; yes, everything we sing about and feel comes from our environment, but it’s pretty complicated... those dynamics when it comes to language. It’s something I think about every day.




Since their founding in 2013, Postcards have established themselves as one of their country’s most exciting indie exports. (Supplied)

“We live in a tiny country, play a niche type of music, sing in English,” Sabra continues. “But it’s not like we’re in denial about where we’re from, or like we look down on Oriental/Arabic music or something silly like that,” she states, with a slight bit of apprehension at the notion. “I feel like the West, with all its multitudes, is allowed to be so many things — why can’t it be the same with us?” In other words, artists from the Middle East are not born of a cultural monolith.

“Abroad, there’s a system: you check out a band, listen to their music and you just go and see them,” she says of her band’s international touring experience. “It’s cool to travel there and see people show up; we ask some of them ‘How did you know about the show?’ ‘Oh, well,’ they say, ‘I’ve just listened to your music!’ It’s real simple.”

Back home, it’s all been a little different. “In Lebanon, it used to be a social thing. You don’t always go to a gig to listen to music, but to hang out... the whole indie bands thing was trendy. However, in the past couple of years, a small but extremely devoted audience has emerged,” she says with bright-eyed reverence for the faithful. “Now there’s a real fanbase of people who listen to the albums and who follow you — even if it’s 200 people at a gig, they really want to be there and hear the music.”




Postcards played a jam-packed release show on January 3 at Beirut’s iconic Metro Al Madina theater. (Supplied)

Like all the other releases in the Postcards catalog, “The Good Solider” was produced by one of Lebanon’s most prolific musical mainstays, Fadi Tabbal, for whom Sabra has a lot of respect. “Fadi is the key,” she says of the Tunefork Studios producer. “He makes people aware of what’s special about their artistic identity, the sonic universes and soundscapes... he’s a perfect mentor, because he pushes you to do your best.”

Tabbal has supported Postcards from the beginning, and now both manages the band and handles their live sound. “It helps that he’s also an artist... an encyclopedia of music, a living version of the Oblique Strategies”, Sabra says, comparing Tabbal to the Brian Eno/Peter Schmidt-created cult card set featuring unconventional, ‘think-outside-the-box’ creative cues.

Sabra does not understate the progression that the band’s second album represents: “It’s a step up for us, working together closely, delving deeper into everything, taking more risks. We’re more aware of what we’re doing. It’s our baby. A very important, emotional statement.” Her compelling vocals navigate the delay-drenched sonic expanses of Tohme’s guitars and bass lines, and the hypnotic whirlwind of Semerdjian’s beats and percussion, all enveloped by entrancing synths and ambient passages.




Like all the other releases in the Postcards catalog, “The Good Solider” was produced by one of Lebanon’s most prolific musical mainstays, Fadi Tabbal, for whom Sabra has a lot of respect. (Supplied)

Both the anger and the melancholy that Sabra used to define “The Good Solider” are on full display on opener “Dead End”, where dramatic, searing guitars emerge intermittently in the chorus out of the aural sea of solitude crafted by the atmospheric instrumentation and Sabra’s lyrics. The title track is the link between the two halves of the album: “That song is sort of the thesis of the album — it’s a synth-y folk song, and the big theme is the realization that things that we believe in and that we were taught to believe are crumbling down.

“The good solider is the person who’s willing to consider letting go of a life where you live according to what’s expected of you — marriage, kids, and all that,” she continues. “Maybe there’s a way to get past this intrinsic patriarchal thing that’s so deeply engrained in us. So, ‘The Good Solider’ is about making your own way, while realizing that it all needs a lot of work and commitment, the kind that not everyone is necessarily cut out for.”

In the context of the turmoil that often seems like a near-permanent fixture of life in Lebanon, Sabra says, “We don’t have any other way to process our lives and what happens to us and how we think and feel. Making music is a bit of a self-involved, but very therapeutic, exercise, and it’s also a representation of who we are at this certain point in time — as both people and artists.”

For now, though, Postcards are just gearing up for what comes next. They played a jam-packed release show on January 3 at Beirut’s iconic Metro Al Madina theater. “We have a bunch of tours coming up; March, June, August and fall... taking over the world, basically,” she smiles, only half-jokingly. “We’re just happy the album’s been set free into the world. From here on, it takes a different meaning – it’s no longer just ours.”


Museum telling Jeddah’s historic story to open in 2022

The building, designed in typical Jeddah style, bears white walls made of a heady mix of coral stones extracted from the nearby reef along the Red Sea shores, and purified clay from nearby lakes. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 55 min 22 sec ago

Museum telling Jeddah’s historic story to open in 2022

  • Red Sea Museum in the Bab Al-Bunt building will house rare collections, manuscripts, pictures and books

JEDDAH: Jeddah’s rich and colorful past is riddled with events that can take a lifetime to tell, and which will soon be on display for all to see.

Situated on the western shores of the Kingdom, the city is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, languages and ethnicities. Jeddah, “The Pearl of the Red Sea,” will soon have a museum in the heart of its historic district that will showcase the city’s story.
The Ministry of Culture (MoC) has announced that the Red Sea Museum in the Bab Al-Bunt building will open to visitors at the end of 2022. The building’s location was historically known as Bab Al-Bunt port, connecting the residents of the Red Sea coast to the world, and a key gateway for pilgrims, merchants and tourists to the city.
The port also served as the departure point for Kingdom’s founding father, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, when he sailed to Egypt to meet King Farouk 74 years ago.

The building, designed in typical Jeddah style, bears white walls made of a heady mix of coral stones extracted from the nearby reef along the Red Sea shores, and purified clay from nearby lakes used to cement them, with the walls dotted with the unique intricate woodwork balconies and windows known as “rowshan,” historically known to have been influenced by the Levant.
It is believed that the building was also named after one of Jeddah’s old gateways, dating back over 200 years.
The MoC announced that the museum will house rare collections, manuscripts, pictures and books that tell the story of the building and city. It is seeking to celebrate the cultural value that the Red Sea coast represents, and the experiences of its residents, shedding light on stories of seafaring, trade, pilgrimage, diversity and other cultural elements that have shaped Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.

Saudi artist Dia Aziz Dia, one of the Kingdom’s pioneers of the arts told Arab News that Jeddah’s unique place in history was a story that could be told in many ways, but that showcasing it in a museum would be the right approach.

“Our placement and history must be placed in a museum because if it’s not placed now and studied properly to show to the world who we are, then all of our heritage could be lost in time,” Dia said.
He added that it is no easy task to reach international museum standards, as many of the items, paintings and artifacts will need special attention with highly skilled workers to ensure optimal preservation and display, fitting for a museum that will accommodate not only locals, but visitors from across the world.
The museum will house more than 100 creative artworks, hold about four temporary annual exhibitions, and offer educational programs for all age groups.

It will tell stories of woven cultures and traditions handed down throughout time — of east meeting west, openness, and centuries of progress.
“Whatever will be on display in the museum will show the history of the city and its special location in the world, because Jeddah is a gateway for all (pilgrims) arriving to head to Makkah and Madinah for Hajj (and Umrah),” said Dia. “At the same time, those who stayed in Jeddah throughout history, the mixing and diversity that resulted from that gives Jeddah its broad culture because the people are not from one category or one nationality, such as in other cities in the Kingdom.
The Red Sea Museum is part of the Quality of Life Vision Realization Program of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. It also comes under the umbrella of the Specialized Museums Initiative, part of the first package of the MoC’s range of initiatives.