Imaginary Baseball League, Revive

Imaginary Baseball League
(What A Waste Recordings)

Like a host of emotional British rock bands – Radiohead, Coldplay, Travis – Imaginary Baseball League tend toward broad, athemic tunes often held together on gossamer guitars and faint keyboards. Despite their epic quality, IBL’s songs explore the intensely personal. They create maudlin anthems of intimate events. And when IBL flirts with the rhythms of Americana music, they do with authority – Imaginary Baseball League hails from Murfreesboro.

Similarities to British “emo” aside, IBL play with the textures of their instruments like few of their contemporaries. It is this attention to the sounds of their sounds along with their appreciation of melody that sets them apart from their peers. Roomy, inconstant bass and drums, floating keys and the clean guitar notes and earnest, raspy vocals of Aaron Robinson give IBL’s music the sense of defying gravity.

The closer, I Won’t Stop, lyrically and musically describes freefall. Robinson’s scratchy voice floats above even the lightweight guitar and keys. The song closes the musical theme opened in the first song, The One Infallible. In it, Robinson describes an untainted schoolboy crush while his band’s instruments individually take flight around him.

When the proceedings are intentionally grounded it is with more percussion like in Fat Boys Are Not Athletes and Don’t Call At All. The latter may be the closest to a traditional rock song that IBL ever comes. There’s an overdriven guitar, a verse-chorus-verse structure and a straight-ahead rhythm that recalls their homeboys Glossary.

But it’s Fat Boys that stands out. It includes no nod to the slow tempos and romantic themes of their other songs. Its aggressive tone is also unique in this collection. Though really, its magic is in its coupling of (one guesses) a very personal subject (a fat kid forced to play football) with an unrelenting beat. The song is a nugget of triumph for the geeky loser. In the humor and menace of this song, so far removed from their intense balladeering, Imaginary Baseball League show themselves capable of three-dimensional angst.