For anyone familiar with Imaad Wasif's other bands (Lowercase, Alaska!, the New Folk Implosion) or his work in 2006 as a touring guitarist with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, his debut solo self-titled album might come as somewhat of a surprise. Ditching the noisier electric guitars for softly played acoustic ones (nearly every song begins with a repeating, picked arpeggio), Wasif takes an ascetic approach to the record, happily immersing himself in an Elliott Smith-like self-denial and depression ("You can always find a friend to hurt you when you're down/And it's wonderful to be without," he nearly cheerfully admits in "Without," and "Coil," one of the closest things to a love song, has Wasif ominously singing "I have murdered in the dark just to be so much closer to you my love") with a clean tenor that sounds remarkably like Jeff Buckley's, though Wasif keeps his more controlled than the late singer generally did, sticking to sad, simple melodies of a few notes. However, Wasif's songwriting can't be compared to either Smith's or Buckley's. Not that Wasif is bad by any measure, but Smith especially had a way with lyrics, so that rhyming or not, everything always flowed just how it should. Instead, Wasif tries too hard to make lines interesting and profound, and they end up sounding awkward and a bit forced. It can be almost jarring, which, based on the soft, droning guitars he relies on throughout the album, doesn't seem to be the intended effect. He concentrates on creating gloomy, overly dramatic gothic imagery of heartache and loss, but because of this focus on atmosphere the songs never really take off, remaining stuck inside looping steel-string patterns and Wasif's acute sensitivity to nuance. This repetition drags on after a while, slows down breathing too much, and when Imaad Wasif is over, instead of the desolate sadness that the musician wants everyone to feel, the listener is left feeling a bit tired from the lack of oxygen.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown