Imaginary Boy is a Swedish solo act that combines elements of alt-rock with ambient and electronica music though it delves into some more traditional sounds as well. The resulting combinations are dubbed “cinematic rock” by the titular Imaginary Boy who wrote, played, sung and mixed all of the songs himself. The label is an apt description: the bulk of the songs on his album Roads aren't your typical A-to-B radio structures. There's a lot of shifting and building to crescendos here, creating a sense of the dramatic.
A loose rule of thumb for Roads: the longer the track is, the more cinematic it is. Though only one track falls under the four-minute mark, those that break six minutes showcase the most variety and self-contained evolution.
The album kicks off with “My Best Friend.” It leads with some twinkling noises that lead to an angelic hum (a few brief notes repeated in a looping melody), which gives way to a buzzing strum, it itself broken up by the occasional chord. Somehow all of these things fall perfectly into place once the vocals start (a muted drumming rounds out the sound). It's here where I have to admit the most glaring issue with the album: the mixing has left the vocals rather muddled.
I can pick out some lines here and there, usually in the chorus, but I was unable to understand a song start to finish the entire time I listened. Now, I don't actually mind this. Though I don't think it was the artist's intention, the sound of his voice and the inflection of his words, even if they aren't fully understood, added to the songs' atmosphere for me. What's more, while I may not be able to give concrete images used or clear-cut meanings to these songs, I'm certain that no two listeners will experience them the same way as a result, and I rather like that idea; it's beautiful.
“Stargazing” is the piece with the most depth. The minimal melody eked out on the electric guitar that kicks us off, combined with the drawn out pronunciation of the lyrics, calls back to slow core acts like Low. It's lonely all around but there are moments that break this bare-bones approach. Suddenly drums exist and the guitars develop a jagged, aggressive edge, breaking up the verses before things go quiet again. The song ends with a collage of wavering feedback and buzzes before transitioning into the next track with a series of beeps.
The shorter tracks are more traditional and straightforward. “Light a Fire” carries a folk rock vibe with brief glimpses of scuzzy-grunge goodness. “I'm Not Here” is practically aquatic, being built around repeating rippling sounds that are a joy to follow. The ominous acoustic backbone of “Where Do We Go?” calls back to late-career Johnny Cash. These tracks continue the album's motif of changing atmospheres and influences but in a much smaller way.
Roads is a tad complicated. Those who listen to it for the auditory experience without seeking overt storytelling (unless you're willing to pay very, very close attention) are likely to get the most enjoyment out of it.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook