I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to describe Imaginary Cities. Google them, and you’ll unfortunately get the word “indie” pop up everywhere. “Indie” doesn’t mean anything anymore, in an age where most bands really do “Do It Yourself”. Pop music can be indie nowadays, and so we fall into a bit of a conundrum. Let’s start by what made Imaginary Cities indie: 2 people in the band, multi-instrumentalists, recording and playing everything themselves which warrants a definite do-it-yourself etiquette. But it sounds huge. I am not saying that “indie” sounding music doesn’t sound huge, as a matter of fact I think that from plaid-wearing-banjo-loving-way-too-smiley-folk-rock to retro-sounding-sludge-metal, the term “indie” seems to mean absolutely nothing anymore, as far as attempting to describe music.
Where Imaginary Cities standout, for me, out of the whole indie scene, is that when you hear the music, you can’t help but visualize it. Like this is music that should be played in an arena with a huge budget and massive stage set designed by someone like Robert Lepage. Just look at the front cover of their sophomore album, The Fall Of Romance (out now via Hidden Pony / Votiv), which looks like something out of German filmmaker Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Skip to track 3 and be re-transported to Germany through the beautiful, sweeping song “The Bells Of Cologne”. “Sooner or Later” only reinforces this imagery by heavily recalling the Berlin-period Bowie classic “Sound And Vision”. PS: I checked to find any German connections that Imaginary Cities’ Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas may have, but fell flat. Which makes sense, being a tourist is always more romantic than being a native, isn’t it? They’re from Winnipeg, Canada.
To be fair, there is an undeniable Canadian Pop sound to this band. This band could easily tour with acts such as Metric, Arcade Fire, etc… and not be out of place. But Imaginary Cities is just better than the competition. They do not hide behind style for substance to come out. This is true great pop songwriting; often recalling what would happen if the Bee Gees, Bowie and, say Nicolette Larson made an album together.
As with any good art, it brings you into its world, letting you breathe into it comfortably instead of just waiting to know how it will end or which song will standout. To listen to The Fall Of Romance is as much of an experience as watching a great movie, or reading a great novel: something that is completely engrossing and rich and makes you want more. It paints its own doomed-romantic landscape knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – this is what keeps you grinning throughout. The lyrics have an attitude that recalls Blondie and Canada’s own Blue Rodeo all at once. Everything about Imaginary Cities is smart. I can see why this band limits itself to two members: no 3rd party ego, just a duo sharing an uncompromising single vision and putting life into it. Live, the band gives you the full experience by being a 5-piece group.
Imaginary Cities will be in Montreal June 13, performing at Club Lambi (4465 Boulevard Saint-Laurent). Tickets are 13$ (hear me lol, folks), and can be purchased at https://greenlandevenko.ticketabc.com/events/imaginary130613/
Your mission, dear reader, should you choose to accept it, is to be there.