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Earnest, Evocative And Heartfelt: Imaginary Cities’ “Leftovers”

Imaginary Cities
HIdden Pony

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A favorite band reaching the end of its run is usually a cause for disappointment and a reason for celebration.

The breakup of the Winnipeg-based band Imaginary Cities isn’t an exception to this rule. One wishes that multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Rusty Matyas and lead vocalist Marti Sarbit would continue making music together forever. Their pop craftsmanship, songwriting, and sheer passion of performance make their two full-length LPs – Temporary Resident (2011) and Fall of Romance (2013) – catchy and rich gems that somehow marry Liverpool and Motown.

True, Imaginary Cities is no more, but Matyas and Sarbit have left us with Leftovers, an EP that simultaneously serves as a departing gift to their fans and as a reminder of their strengths as songwriters, lyricists, and singers.

This is to say that Leftovers is anything but leftovers. Rather, the EP collects four songs that stand with Imaginary Cities’ best work.

Opener “Set My Heart on Fire” features an indelible jangle-pop guitar riff, an infectious melody, and Matyas’ and Sarbit’s wondrous harmonies (Liverpool). The tune also features a cool dance groove (Motown) and a stellar arrangement. It’s no wonder that “Fire” is the EP’s first single.

“Wherever You Are” showcases Imaginary Cities’ ability to create beauty (think: “A Way with Your Words” from Fall of Romance). Earnest, evocative, and heartfelt, its emotional nakedness is something rarely found in other bands. The arrangement helps create this effect, but Sarbit’s tone in the chorus and the way it plays with the tasteful guitar figure make this song a keeper.

The acoustic “True Love” follows and gives Matyas a chance to sing lead. His love for Paul McCartney knows no bounds, and this song explodes into a chorus that reminds one of “Hey Jude.” But the tune isn’t derivative. Sarbit’s presence on harmony vocals adds a gritty edge that makes the song unique.

The EP closes with “Carousel,” a piece based on a synth drone, which allows Matyas and Sarbit the freedom to carry the song with their vocals. The simplicity of the music means that the tender vocals come through very clearly. I’d quote some lyrics, but you should really listen to the song. My typing wouldn’t do it justice.

Thank you, Rusty and Marti, for enriching our lives with Imaginary Cities.