This guy has to be kidding, right? Imaad Wasif has been a member of too many sub-serious bands to be this serious. He was in the New Folk Implosion, and lord knows any serious moments Lou Barlow may have had in his career have been overshadowed by his overall lo-fi, slack-rock goofiness. He was in Alaska! and Lowercase, and now Wasif is a touring member of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sure, a power ballad may have been the song that broke that band big, but check its lyrics: “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you.” Okay. That’s teen-love-diary enough. But then this: “Maps, maps, maps, maps.” Is Karen O trying to map the human heart?
So all the icky earnestness on Wasif’s self-titled solo debut has to be a joke, right? But if it is, dude’s not letting on. There’s no sense of the ironic wink here that can be found in even Belle and Sebastian‘s most treacly moments. It’s all sub-par Jeff Buckley/Leonard Cohen/Elliot Smith rehash.
There’s nothing overtly wrong with a guy wearing his heart on the sleeve of an arm that’s strumming an acoustic guitar. Damien Jurado does it all the time. But Jurado tells stories. Wasif, on the other hand, seems to have no yarns to spin. His lyrics just tread water in a sea of overwrought clichés and overstretched metaphors. On “Whisper,” he lilts, “Take what you think you can/ Over the rainbow.” Puh-leeze. Dorothy, take me back to Kansas.
And the simpleness just keeps on coming until it’s simply deadening. “Blade” is sparser than sparse; it makes Sufjan Steven‘s “Abraham” sound like a full-on Spectorish wall of sound. The title “(Dandelion),” wrapped as it is in parentheses, made me hope the song might be an instrumental break from Wasif’s wordy sappiness, but it ain’t. And “Tomorrow is Ours” ends the album, like most tracks on it, quick and cold, leaving me with the impression that none of these songs evolved beyond half-baked ideas.