For an indie band that often seemed to be on the edge of commercial breakthrough, Your Imaginary Friends sounded like they completely belong to the ‘90s. Their fuzzy, melodic guitar-rock anthems mixed with existential angst and sad bastard sentimentality complement the alt mixtape era very well, and much like Teenage Fanclub, Lemonheads or Weezer, they can turn scribbled, post-adolescent confessionals into catchy, emotionally evocative songs that you can celebrate and cry to while you’re busy tearing up your ex-lover’s photos.
Make no fuss: Your Imaginary Friends’ new album Silence Is A Villain, despite fostering faultlessly crafted pop songs out of misery and heartbreak, has the ability to articulate an aesthetic of its own, a demasculated Judd Apatowian storytelling layered with a bratty tone, perverted and made more appealing by a gamut of influences—from ‘90s Britpop to shoegaze, from power-pop to noise-rock, from Manic Pixie Dreamgirl to Bratpack. It’s a snapshot of a band that operates at the summit of their creative capacity, ditching the sugary sweet punch of their debut EP One Dreamy Indeterminate Hum for a grittier songwriting perspective and a more refined sound.
Sure you’ll all miss the rosy cuteness of coming-of-age staples “Hey Rowena” and “Oh Liza,” even more than that, the curly, elegant melodies and clean guitar tone that made those songs an instant charmer, but we could all agree that the new batch of tracks in Your Imaginary Friends’ follow-up album is an expansion into new territory, a riskier move to be exact. And just as we’re about to move forward to a brand new year, free from the heartbreaking diarist pop of Bagatsafonik’s sophomore album, Ang Bandang Shirley’s Tama Na Ang Drama and Up Dharma Down’s Capacities, Your Imaginary Friends open up the deep wounds of the past and made songs that stab your soul with heartfelt gravity.
There’s that stench of seething remorse on “Baby You’re Going To Hell” and “Your Silence Is A Villain” that is just fun and exciting to listen and sing to while you exactly imagine yourself setting your ex’s house on fire just to get even. Like a jerk who wants to let the world know how much aggravated and pissed he is, Ahmad tackles a sprightly, slightly twisted take on breakup, mastering that kind of sensibility with a natural sense of understanding. Or maybe because all his life, he’s been writing jackass revenge on his palm. Who knows?
“Beyond Euphemisms” also follows the similar template with unabashed seriousness, but the delivery doesn’t fall under mopey or self-absorbed machismo. Over soaring guitar arrangements, tender-hearted stomps and life-sized sprawl, Your Imaginary Friends show a much broader dynamic, churning up enough bile to get across the bitterness and heartaches. “Visiting Hours Are Over (Come Over)” clings into sleepy waves of hazy innocence with guitars stretched into narcotic drawl. It’s the sound of waking up early in the morning only to find out you’re still drifting in the dreamworld, completely washed out from reality. And then there’s the psychedelic alt-pop of “While Beating Red Lights,” and the stripped down wistfulness of “In Washington Drive” to complete the album’s hearts-on-sleeve touch.
Few bands have successfully managed to defy the formula of their debut for a record that gives itself to so much sin and vulnerability. What I like about Your Imaginary Friends’ follow-up record is that it isn’t afraid to reverse the equation and move on to a bolder chapter, waxing adolescent angst without surrendering completely to it. It’s not an easy climb for sure, but despite the stains and dirt, they were able to find the meaningful value in that long trek, something that would hardly fade in the long run. A-