Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Imaginary Cities

Imaginary Cities
New Release: Fall of Romance
Release Date: Today (May 28, 2013)
Record Label: Hidden Pony Records (which also represents NMT favorites Rah Rah)
Sounds Like: fun. (NMT, NMT), Amy Winehouse, Macy Gray, The Arcade Fire (NMT), Valery Gore (NMT)
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba

When I first heard a streaming preview of Imaginary Cities' sophomore release, Fall of Romance, it came with the same type of excitement as when I first heard the debut release of the recently chart-topping theatrical indie rock trio, fun., Aim & Ignite in 2009. That album marked the material I've been most impressed with since I began this blog. Large, sweeping volumes of elaborate instrumentation paired with grandiose lyricism are like catnip to me – it's just irresistible to my aural sensitivities. Add to that multiple, Canadian lead vocalists of both genders – all elements I've repeatedly expressed my preference for on many occasions in this space – and I'm nearly compelled to react with unbridled enthusiasm.

Of course, it must be noted that the dozen tracks presented by this duo of vocalist Marti Sarbit and multi-instrumentalist Rusty Matyas does not represent the same scope of achievement of that first fun. record. It doesn't span the same range of instrumental styles nor are the nuances in the arrangements so finely delivered via the recording process. Nonetheless, there are many comparisons to be found between the two acts: the creative partnership between Sarbit and Matyas tacks closely to the relationship between fun.'s Nate Ruess and Andrew Dost, with Sarbit mirroring Ruess' unique vocal delivery (in her case, echos of the late Amy Winehouse or a less-harsh Macy Gray) and seems to possess the same sort of center-stage persona, while Dost and Matyas are not only incredibly talented on numerous instruments, but more importantly craft complex and intricate compositions that showcase the strengths of their relative bands. 

Come for: "Fall of Romance" (it's at once catchy and and complex; the hook is instantly memorable)
Stay for: "Silver Lining" (a haunting piano line and menacing rhythm track suggests Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" or Valery Gore's "Worried Head;" horns add some good volume)
You'll be surprised by: "A Way With Your Words (the only track featuring Matyas on lead vocals, and its a welcome change of pace, especially given its restrained, acoustic format)
Solid efforts: "Lilt [The Intro Song]" (it's only an unadorned piano piece from Matyas, but I don't mind a prelude instrumental at the outset of an ambitious record, as is the case here); "All the Time" (the piano-driven ballad introduces us early to the vocal interplay between Sarbit and Matyas, while gradually increasing the grandiosity in Queen-type fashion – a tactic fun. employs with great success – with meaty gang choruses and crescendoing strings); "Bells of Cologne" (the clanging bells that suggest the number's title are wisely featured mostly at the beginning and end, while the track builds to an Arcade Fire-like anthemic level); "Sooner Or Later" (some of the most nimble orchestration on the collection; pretty good chorus hook); "9 and 10" (a little brooding at first, but Sarbit fires up the jets here like nowhere else on the album); "Who's Watching You" (the record's most straight-forward rock cut); "Water Under The Bridge" (has a retro, 60s-soul, Phil-Spector-Wall-Of-Sound style); "Still Waiting So Cold" (if any group has the credibility to lament the cold, its one from Winnipeg!) 
Meh: "Chasing The Sunset" (its tempting to write-off the number as a frilly power ballad, as the strings are a tad too pretty and the piano a touch too cheesy, but the melody is solid and Matyas' ideas for the rhythm backing is dark and bluesy, so it comes out as a wash); "
Skip to next track: no one track is objectionable in my view, but if this type of big sound approach isn't your thing then you're unlikely to like most of them

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