Music

Imaginary Cities: Fall of Romance

The concoction of two cooperating voices, a great sense of melody and the ability to make everything sound grand doesn't quite deliver what it could, but still makes you want to embrace it.


Imaginary Cities

Fall of Romance

Label: WEA / Votiv
US Release Date: 2013-05-28
UK Release Date: 2013-05-28
Amazon
iTunes

Fall of Romance, the second album by the Canadian Polaris-nominated indie pop act Imaginary Cities, begins with a ditty called “All the Time” (not counting the scene-setting but largely unimportant short intro). It’s a song that yearns to be big, both in scale and in the emotional impact it wants to achieve in its listeners. It has a gradual build from intimate to enormous, it has dramatic pianos and gospel choruses, soaring middle-eights and extended finales for the crowd to sing along with. It tries so desperately to be a Huge Moment that it’s almost a textbook example of one. But you know what – it achieves its goals. It’s the sort of opener that continues to echo in the listener’s mind even when the album’s moved on to other things; it sets the scene and opens the album in such a gorgeous way that it almost endangers to overshadow everything else before everything else has even had a chance to play. It’s an excellent song and if Imaginary Cities need a calling card, this is it. Right from its very beginning, Fall of Romance wants to sound like a classic album.

“All the Time” is a minor anomaly on Fall of Romance because after it, Imaginary Cities largely strip down the grandeur, leaving the gospel choirs and other budget-breaking production choices behind. On one hand, it’s a little disappointing because it’s allowed us a taste of something lovely and now we want more, but on the other hand it helps to reveal who Imaginary Cities really are: a group that manages to take small elements and turn them into lush musical statements on their own, straddling somewhere between intimate and universal. Throughout the album songs start out as something small and suddenly turn into lush, towering anthems without ever really moving away from where they began. The title track is a great example. “Fall of Romance” is a gently strummed mid-tempo number that seems rather unassuming for a title track initially, but suddenly it hits a swooning melody so gorgeous in its chorus that the once bedroom-sized song suddenly touches something very universally beautiful and becomes something big and important. This occurs throughout the album and the moments never get any less exciting: “9 and 10” and “Bells of Cologne” (the only other big production number here, because with a title like that you just need some big bells to go along) in particular are excellent landmark moments for the band that make you believe you might have hit something special, simply because of their wonderful melodies and the way the band employ them.

The secret weapon that Imaginary Cities accentuate their music with is their singers. There are bands with great vocalists and then there are bands that use their vocalists in a great way, and Imaginary Cities fall in the latter category. That isn’t to say that anything’s lacking in the voice department for their two mouthpieces: Marti Sarbit’s raspy, soulful tone stands out instantly in a very positive way and is a big part of the appeal in many songs, while Rusty Matyas’ softer, harmonious tone has a nice amount of charisma of its own whenever he steps in front of the microphone. The key thing is that the Sarbit and Matyas understand that their two very different voices can complement one another really well and they shamelessly take advantage of it all the time. The two singers trade the lead vocal position (although Sarbit spends most of the time in said place), underline each other’s strong moments with their own frequently and harmonise, back-and-forth and answer each other’s cues. It works incredibly well and often either helps accentuate the songs’ strengths or mask weaker moments where they might be.

There aren’t many weaker moments on Fall of Romance but they’re confined to the final stretch of the album and act as a rather negative reflection to how strongly the album started. “A Way With Your Words” tries to be the personal moment of the album, stripping the elements down to an acoustic guitar and Matyas’ voice for the most part, but it ends up sounding like the least naturally flowing part of the album; a too conscious effort in sounding intimate. “Who’s Watching You” on the other hand is just good old poor judgment. It’s Imaginary Cities wanting to show that they can ROCK but they aren’t a band who really lends itself to that and the result is like a one-off live novelty cover, and the guest vocals from the Sheepdogs’ Ewan Currie are way too over-the-top to go with the rest of the Imaginary Cities vocal cast. The classily swaying “Water Under the Bridge” and the bombastic final bow “Still Waiting So Cold” fare better, but the former isn’t strong enough to really lift the album back to its legs and the overly short latter track finishes before it does. It’s an underwhelming, even if not a bad ending to an album that for most of its duration showcases something that could be rather special.

The strengths outweigh the flaws however. Fall of Romance is special in the way that it makes you want to believe in the act: it’s not an extraordinary album, “merely” rather good, but Imaginary Cities themselves flash brilliance throughout in the way they create their melodies, make particular moments sound extraordinary and how they perform throughout the album. They make you want to fall in love with their music and quite often the songs themselves back the notion. All they need is a little more songs in the calibre of “All the Time”, even if not exact facsimiles of it, and they could make the step up from award nominees to winners. For now, Fall of Romance is a rather good way of spending time with them.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image