Darwin Deez’s Songs for Imaginative People leaves your mind bursting at the seams. The album is excellently produced, composed and written, so every track mesmerizes you with the way its lyrics, vocals and instrumentation fall together in the mix. It clocks in at around 40 minutes, but it feels a lot shorter.

Songs for Imaginative People

B+
Darwin Deez
Lucky Number


Everything has been amped up since Deez’s debut, self-titled album. His simple recordings of guitar and percussion have evolved into richly woven mixes that showcase synths and samples on top of the usual instrumentation. As the tracks thicken with new layers, so does his lyrical content with new themes and emotions.

The synths Deez has added to his arsenal create a more electronic vibe and a science theme. This new flavor comes out in the first track, “(800) HUMAN,” on which electronic drum kits support his part-sci-fi, part-existentialist lyrics. He goes full nerd on “Redshift,” a song full of musings about the Big Bang and the Doppler effect. It definitely works — “Redshift” is the climax of the album and arguably the best song. It rises and falls throughout, led by a powerful falsetto and featuring a kick-ass chorus.

There’s also plenty of emotional conflict in the album. “You Can’t Be My Girl” bites with strife: It references a debate about Gorbachev and features a couple of hi-octane, Jack White-style, whammy pedal solos. Not too shabby. “Free (The Editorial Me)” clearly tries to make some serious social commentary. Unfortunately, a final message is not entirely evident. YouTube hits, however, show that this song has twice as many plays as any other song on the album, so listeners are definitely trying hard to figure it out. He ends the record with “Chelsea’s Hotel,” a story of contentment and desire, set in a seaside town whose image he burns into your mind through rich lyrics.

It’s not all serious, though — “Alice” is a straight-up love song, and it gets a little sappy. Feel free to listen to this if you have a faraway lover, or if you want a cute tingly feeling in your stomach. “Moonlit” came straight from the 1980s, and it grooves like it’s still there. Deez’s usual meandering mixes give way to a tight beat that grinds hard on the backbeat.

Deez has been practicing, too: He rips through some guitar solos that didn’t seem possible in the last album, and his falsetto soars to new heights with new clarity. His playing on “You Can’t Be My Girl” surprises with its technical skill, but he really experiments with his guitar on “No Love.” The track fills with different layers — there’s a plucky bass line in the low register, an airy rhythm guitar, an aggressive lead and a cool, slurred riff that sounds like his fingers are tripping over each other down the fretboard. His falsetto impresses at the front end of the LP, shines in “Redshift” and shows its softer side in “All in the Wrist.”

Songs for Imaginative People is fresh and will snag new listeners just as it will impress fans of the last album. Its main downfall is that it doesn’t really shove any memorable melodies into your head on a first listen. Deez doesn’t have a “Bad Day” this time — a song that will stick with you for days until you just want it to be gone. There’s plenty to catch on to after a day or two, but the vocals might not be able to reel in the casual listener.

Darwin Deez released an exclusive stream of the record through NME, and he decided to accompany it with a full, self-written track guide. It seems a little counterproductive that Songs for Imaginative People comes with an explanation for every song, but maybe he’s just accommodating those who are less imaginative. With or without the footnotes, it’s worth a listen.

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