I’m always amazed at the quality Jeff Cloud always seems to release from the Velvet Blue Music lineup. The latest release by LN is no exception. Imaginary Cars evolves from their past release, Plum Brook, but still contains the patented VBM brand of breathy, melancholy love songs. But the songs sound fuller, dreamier, and more profound this time around. The EP definitely has a sad surf feel and is reminiscent of Starflyer 59 at times with a Chris Isaak twist.
The vocals are the first aspect of the album that captures my ears. As with most of the VBM bands, LN also contains the heavyhearted vocals, but they are more prominent than those of The Lassie Foundation or Pony Express. They aren’t pushed behind the layers, but are displayed nicely over the lush array of sounds. There’s a definite reason for this. It’s almost uncanny how much he sounds like Isaak during “Never Meant to Make You Cry” and “Tuscany.” He gives the song a warmth similar to Isaak’s Forever Blue, as the low, soft voice floats over an acoustic guitar.
During “Hello January,” the vocals remind me more of Eric Matthews in a way, as his voice climbs higher at times, but not quite reaching a falsetto. The final track, “Echo Broke Alone,” is comparable to the Beach Boys’ “Warmth of the Sun” as the vocals do finally reach a falsetto early in the song and radiates a “wool blanket on a cold day” feel.
Musically, it’s very oceanic at times, especially the opening instrumental, “Rosmere.” Ambient keys, reverb, and serene vocals give the rest of the album the same quality and compares quite nicely with Ester Drang’s latest. This is especially true on “I Could Be So Nice,” as the different layers slowly make their arrival. “Tuscany” is another one of those tracks that receives gradual layering, including a piano that prances in the background and atmospheric keys that fade in and out, adding depth. It also provides a dreamy quality when placed behind the acoustic guitar, which reminded me of Sean Lennon’s Into the Sun.
The only downside to Imaginary Cars is the fact that it’s only an EP with somewhat short songs, but I guess I must adhere to the old cliché of quality not quantity.
Written by Nolan Shigley.