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  Imaginary Maps  
  Imaginary Maps  
  Waysign Records  
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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 songs.

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.

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