I dig Imaginary Johnny for six reasons. First, the group previously released a good song about New Orleans without using a single clichéd musical quote or reference to local culture. Second, another track was a nice, oblique summation of the state of Texas. Third, at its best the band has a light, discreet, dreamy, and vaguely “psychedelic” charm for people who might want a downshift from the surreal romantic grandeur of Flaming Lips, the ethereal bombast of Mercury Rev, the wooden retro-authenticity of Fleet Foxes, or the anguished chiming sincerity of Iron and Wine. On this latest release, the full-on emotional piano and anguished singing of “Illumination” was an odd, unfashionable pleasure.
The fourth reason I dig Imaginary Johnny is that, although my attention wasn’t held for the entirety of Dig, as it had been with previous releases, a track popping up at random on the mobile digital device is often a refreshing change, and not to be skipped after 20 seconds. The cover art is the fifth reason, because it suggests test driver The Stig from Top Gear looking somewhat mournful with his back to a carousel. And the sixth and final reason to dig this band and album is the name Imaginary Johnny; it makes me think of some wild and free African singer who died young, possibly at the hands of a jealous husband.