Imaginary Maps is a one man band, specifically
of an individual who calls himself VEO. He is, apparently, from
Washington (state, not DC), and upon listening to this, his
debut album, i find that he is an accomplished studio wiz.
VEO does most the guitars, programs the drum machine, and sequences
the keys and bass parts. He also sings, and that is somewhat
problematic. That is to say, VEO has a very affected singing
style -- the pronunciation is quirky in a way that seems forced
at times, with lots of dropped or muted syllables, and the emphasis
often placed in a strange part of the word. In all honesty,
i find myself thinking of Andy Partridge of XTC when i listen
to VEO sing. Partridge also sounds to me like he is forcing
the quirkiness of the pronunciation. Now, i know some people
love that, and i know some people hate it. I am kind of ambivalent
-- at times it annoys me (Showdown sounds painfully affected
to me), but sometimes it really works (Let Go uses the
odd pronunciation to great effect). So -- be warned.
Musically, VEO does a remarkable job of balancing many musical
elements. In fact, i had to read the press sheet several times
to confirm that, yes, that is a drum machine ("the drums
are canned" is what is says). At times it sounds like the
drums are really played, not programmed. A remarkable feat,
as long time readers will know from my frequent bitching about
drum machines here. So, kudos to VEO for a jod well done. He
provides a simple, yet very appropriate, rhythmic backing for
His guitarwork really fits his singer-songerwriter style of
song composition as well. It is not too complex, nor is it purely
acoustic hippy strumming crap. He treads a midway point between
overshowmanship and lack of substance. I especially like the
electric guitar on Prison Break (even the guitarwork
reminds me of XTC on this track, all light arpeggios and the
like), the acoustic guitar on Air Raid, and the slide
guitar or Live It Down. He plays a wide variety of styles,
but they all seem to fit within the context of the song.
And it is VEO's focus on "the song" that i like. It is often
the case with singer-songwriter types that the vocals are way
out front, or that the guitar overpowers everything. That is
not the case here, where all the elements that make up an Imaginary
Maps song is well-balanced. Looking at the CD, i see no "producer"
credit, so i suppose that VEO himself deserves all of the credit.
It is a masterfully balanced album.
So, the music is competent and seems to fit within the "complex,
quirky pop" realm. It is well recorded, and all seems to fit
together nicely. There are a few standout tracks that rise about
the crowd to consider.
The second track on the album, California You is a simply
lovely little tune built on an amazing rhythmic backbone. (I
mean, really -- that is a drum machine?) VEO sings through some
sort of distortion at times, his natural affected quirkiness
at other times. The variety adds some spice to the song. Overall,
it builds nicely, and is a good, vaguely dark, pop song.
The complex interplay of piano and guitar rhythms make Air
Raid a great tune. Combine this with the synth strings in
the background, and the strange samples here and there, and
it all adds up nicely. I must note that the vocals here are
either exceedingly affected or computer processed. Either way,
i like this song.
The albums closer, Let Go, is another fine piano song.
VEO sings very intensely, and samples of old gospel records
pepper the background. There is also a nice slide guitar bit,
and the beats almost sound glitched up. It is an odd tense song,
but it flows and builds beautifully.
Overall i am well impressed with Imaginary Maps.
This is a very solid debut, and shows a level of professionalism
and competence missing from a lot of debuts. If this is where
VEO starts, i will be very curious to see where he goes.