Imaginary Cities – Temporary Resident (Shock)

Canadian band Imaginary Cities started life in 2009 as a duo consisting of Rusty Matyas (instruments) and Marti Sarbit (vocals). Matyas, who also plays with indie rock band The Weakerthans, met Sarbit when he mixed for her Motown covers band The Solutions. The duo immediately began recording together and Temporary Resident is their debut. The album caused a sensation when it was released in Canada, topping campus radio charts. Matyas and Sarbit pulled together some extra band members and have been touring pretty much ever since – even opening for the Pixies.

The eleven tracks on the album glide effortlessly between indie rock, new soul, alt country and electro. These disparate styles are united by Matyas’s downbeat treatment of the music, by a recurring theme of running out of time, and by Sarbit’s unusual voice (which sounds a bit like an extremely soulful computer).

 Opening track Say You combines sexy bass and rousing drums with Sarbit’s anthemic singing. Hummingbird glides in with some buzzing guitars and the temperate Calm Before The Storm is appropriately placed before the electro rock squall of Don’t Cry. Purple Heart layers poignant lyrics of loss over a musical bed that sounds like it’s straight out of Twin Peaks, before Ride This Out explodes with handclaps, classic piano lines and stirring vocals reminiscent of KT Tunstall or Amy Winehouse… but with an ancient wood-smoked flavour that would make it sound at home around a gypsy campfire.

 Where’d All The Living Go is an alt-country number enhanced by Matyas’s tender backing vocals. By contrast Temporary Resident is a raucous track about dissipation and confusion, where the line “don’t ask why but I’m moving closer to the edge” refers to the edge of the pavement above the tracks at the train station, and to the edge of reason.

Manitoba Bossa Nova sounds like a modern re-imagining of a David and Bacharach track with the gentle beat and lyrics about romance. Cherry Blossom Tree is a sweet allegory, and closing track That’s Where It’s At, Sam, which begins with stately saxophone and ends with Sarbit giving Sam a good piece of her mind, begs repeated listening.

Temporary Resident is an astounding and diverse debut of considerable depth. Keep your eyes and ears on Imaginary Cities.

Kathryn van Beek

 Click here to listen to Say You from Temporary Resident: