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Album Review: Imaginary People – “Dead Letterbox”

Just my Imagination
We Just Imaginary People

The debut album “Dead Letterbox” by New York City band Imaginary People is fucking awesome.

I’m pretty horrendous at describing the sound of a band. Having said that, here is my horrendous attempt – Imaginary People are a bit of a throwback to Rockabilly and Surfer music from the 1950’s, but not as sunny. It’s like the cameras from American Bandstand turned off at 11pm, Dick Clark left to sleep in his hyperbolic chamber, the whiskey from the spiked punch took over and a fog rolled in over the beach scene.  We still get the pulsing beats and 50s guitar, but a little less PG.

The rhythm section of Imaginary People is the highlight. Every song is constructed upon an unmistakable dance beat. You get this incredible feeling that rivals when going to see a band on a random Friday night, and knowing nothing about them. You get 2-3 drinks in you and they play a few songs you can’t help but shake your hips to. This leads to you Liking them on Facebook, only to find out they have only 35 fans. You think, why aren’t they more popular? What the hell is going on? How bad must their marketing team be? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions?

The best thing about the Dead Letterbox is how everything “works” together. The vocals would be kind of annoying on a separate track. They aren’t strong and powerful, actually the complete opposite. They blend into the background and seem a bit…whiny. But that’s the thing, they work. The guitar riffs sound just like the surfer sound of yesteryear. The high pitched plucking and bending notes (the most annoying parts of every Vampire Weekend song), but they work here. The aforementioned rhythm section lays down a “Peggy Sue”-type rumble with plenty of pace and it all works.

Despite my plethora of backhanded compliments in the previous paragraph, there are a few flaws. Obviously nothing is perfect, and I’m a nitpicking asshole. The biggest complaint would be the structure of the tracks. I found Dead Letterbox to fade away, rather than burn out, and it’s always better to burn out than to fade away (Copyright: Neil Young – “Hey Hey, My My”). This is more the order than the tracks themselves. The first 5 songs are incredible, good tempo, dance-able tracks, then it kind of slows down for a few songs, then it kind of quits. More of mix would have remedied this for me, but perhaps all I need to do is use the “Shuffle” feature of my iPod. Like I said, I’m a nitpicking asshole.

I really loved this album. It was a pleasant, fresh take on a genre we may have forgotten about. And that’s the thing, we don’t need bands to be groundbreaking with their sound constantly, they just have to be fresh. Sometimes it’s that easy.

Standout Tracks

Plain Purple – My favorite track on the album. It starts off with a low guitar riff and a subtle drum beat. The quivery, falsetto vocals, give a rather emotive vibe to the building emotion. The bridge is absolutely brilliant. Then the much more aggressive drums kick into overdrive with the chorus and add a retro guitar lick. Even some retro keyboards give such an incredible modern but nostalgic feel to a beautiful track. I wish I could understand the lyrics better, but as I mentioned before, all the elements work so nicely to create a great album.

Simple Life – This is almost reminiscent of an 80s synth-pop anthem. That kind of stops once the lyrics and rhythm section take over. Much like all the songs on their album, the drums and melody provide a blueprint for a dance track that doesn’t beat you over the head with the dance aspects. You can move to it, but it isn’t pandering to force you to dance. Point for a fun mini guitar solo in the middle.

Summerstock – Probably the easy track to find online, with good reason. This seems like the easiest to market as a single. It has quite a bit of guitar “walking” and the best vocal track on the album. He can be heard the clearest at least. Summerstock isn’t the most infectious dance beat, but still gives you plenty of what you would expect from Imaginary People.

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