Indie Album with Depth and Variety
Imaginary People as a group have been floating around New York for a couple of years, leaving audiences eager for the release of some substantial recording work. The indie group finally released its debut album, Dead Letterbox, this month, and it is clear even to listeners unfamiliar with their work that the band has found its distinctive sound. They combine electronic flares, synthesizers, up-tempo rhythms, and the occasional twinge of dissonance to create a consistent, yet unique, effect in their music.
Many people land on the opening track “Simple Life” as the stellar song of the album, but there are several other songs that stand out equally, if not to a greater degree. “Simple Life” is catchy yet thought-provoking, which is a delicate balance to strike, but the following track, “Summerstock,” immediately catches the ear as well. The song, with its throwback guitar style, seems to instantly transport listeners to a beach in 1970 with a band playfully jamming in the background. Its chords are happy, from the up-beat guitar riffs to the peppy vocals by Dylan Von Wagner. Without even knowing the name of the track, it brings to mind an image of teenagers in ripped denim sitting on the back of a pickup truck or jeep, parked on a shore at sunset; there are cokes and bonfires in the picture. This imagery serves merely to illustrate the song is fun, and it imbibes a sound of youthful independence and carefree spirits.
Many of Imaginary People’s songs, while quick-paced and incorporating synthesizers, have diverse qualities. “Russian Hill,” for instance, has a distinctly eery element. The song bridges verses with slower, melancholic guitar melodies that stand apart from the quick, creepy guitar work that pervades the rest of the track. While it is upbeat like most of the tracks on the album, that combined with the minor chords creates a unique sense of urgency and makes “Russian Hill” stand apart.
Perhaps the most poignant track of the entire album is “Stella,” the closing track. This song is unique because its tempo is significantly slower than most of Imaginary People’s work, and the notes of the song seem to bend from one to the other, lending it a Hawaiian flare. “Stella” is soothingly romantic, and it illustrates a different side of the group not highlighted in many other tracks.
For a debut album, Dead Letterbox demonstrates that Imaginary People is a group who already knows their identity. They know their niche well enough that, having established a distinctive voice, the group can then stray from this norm and incorporate variety into their repertoire.