Released November 20th 2015 on Five Five Diamonds
“…a sensational, unrelenting piece of guitar music… this is crisp, pulse-quickening fare.” – Clash
Often, when something is lauded as spanning multiple genres, it ends up sounding contrived and messy. I was concerned that there may be an element of this in Imaginary People’s debut album Dead Letterbox, having seen it described as post-punk, electro-pop, roots rock, new wave, and old school rock and roll, to name a few. Thankfully, it quickly becomes evident upon listening that Imaginary People haven’t fallen into the trap of trying to be everything at once, and although the album does incorporate a mix of genres and influences the result still manages to feel experimental and original.
The album’s lead track and first single ‘Simple Life’, which gives you an immediate introduction to Von Wagner’s urgent, almost anguished, style of vocals. It’s more synth heavy than most of the other tracks, but still full of the rich, rocky, ‘Americana’ style that permeates the album. The band themselves have coined this mixture of sounds ‘Dance Americana’, and although this only adds yet another genre label, it is particularly fitting.
Less of the synths, more of the Americana for second track ‘Summerstock’. This is actually my favourite track on the album. Thumping drums drive Von Wagner towards an undeniably catchy chorus, his trembling vocals sounding both frenzied and purposeful. It also gives us a taste of what’s to come, with ‘Summerstock’ being much more typical of the overall sound of the album.
There are definitely some notable successes on Dead Letterbox. ‘Agata’ is one of them. A dark, sensual track with wistful, almost nostalgic overtones. GoldFlakePaint summed it up pretty well: “A thoughtful and indelibly moody moment of retreat, all cautious movement through the shadows, heartfelt disclosures that lend the track a furrowed brow that never once departs.”
I wouldn’t say that any of the tracks are “fillers”, but ‘Gingerbread Girl’ feels like an interlude of sorts. It has a much lighter, more relaxed sound, especially in between the more energetic ‘Russian Hill’ and ‘All Star’. Speaking of ‘All Star’, this is another of the standout tracks for me. This may be my personal bias coming through though, as it’s very similar in structure and atmosphere to my earlier favourite ‘Summerstock.’
The final track that deserves a mention is indeed the final one on the album, ‘Stella’. If every album has a lovesong, ‘Stella’ is that song for Dead Letterbox. The wall of sound that is so evident throughout the rest of the album has been toned down here, allowing for a much softer sound. There’s a touch of Roy Orbison about this track. Not just vocally, although Von Wagner does have more than a hint of Orbison in his voice here, but in the way the track doesn’t follow a conventional verse – chorus – verse – chorus pattern – and, of course, in the song title itself.
If I didn’t know more about Imaginary People I would have guessed this was a second or third album, not a debut. There’s no doubt that producer Kevin McMahon played a large part in ensuring the album sounds as good as it does, but credit is due to every member of the band for a debut album that manages to sound as mature and thoughtful as it is fresh and exciting.
About Imaginary People
Imaginary People is a five piece comprising of Dylan Von Wagner (Vocals), Mark Roth (Guitar) Justin Repasky (Keys), Kolby Wade (Drums) and Bryan Percivall (Bass). For Dead Letterbox they teamed up with producer Kevin McMahon (Swans, Titus Andronicus, Real Estate).