Just as Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard has the Postal Service side-project to indulge the side of him that yearns to create catchy, electronically enhanced pop music for teenagers and avowed fans of prime-time teen dramas, the band’s lead guitarist and resident studio wizard, Chris Walla, has his solo project to indulge the side of him that yearns to write… Death Cab for Cutie songs that he’s actually allowed to sing. He’s been churning out and hastily recording his own material for years, only now releasing an official studio album — after a strange turn of events which saw his laptop, containing the master recordings, get confiscated and held by U.S. Customs for a spell. With a few exceptions notably the lush, multi-layered, album-opening ‘Two Fifty’, the 70s-style power-pop of ‘The Score’ and the somewhat boring soft-rock of ‘Everybody On’, Field Manual is full of tracks that easily could have been sung by Ben Gibbard and used as Death Cab songs. Even Walla’s voice is similar to Gibbard’s, breathy and always restrained. If nothing else, the record forces you to reconsider his place in Death Cab. Is he so enamored of Ben Gibbard’s songwriting that it’s become the primary influence for his own material? Or does he play a more instrumental role in Death Cab than we’d ever realized? It seems unfair to judge Walla in comparison to Death Cab, but when he releases a record that sounds exactly like theirs, minus a bunch of hooks, it’s kind of hard not to.