Imaginary Johnny

Painting Over the Dirt

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Painting Over the Dirt Review

by Stewart Mason

Singer/songwriter Stuart Wolferman makes his full-length debut as Imaginary Johnny with the low-key but appealing Painting Over the Dirt. Pitched somewhere between the Postal Service's indie electronica and the bedsit romanticism of Belle & Sebastian or the Clientele, Painting Over the Dirt fuses smart, melodic pop songwriting to a melancholy worldview exemplified by Wolferman's barely there vocals and minor-key tunes. Wolferman may perhaps be a bit too subtle for his own good, because if the listener's attention wanders over the first half of the album, it can be hard to differentiate one pretty, yearning tune from another. That changes for the better with the compelling "She's Dug," a quirky ballad built around a dramatic loop taken from a scratchy jungle-exotica record and Morse code synthesizers that swell and fade at crucial moments. That's followed immediately by the backwards rhythm track and vintage electronic sounds of the childhood reverie "Missouri Sky" (though now based in Brooklyn, Wolferman's a Kansas City boy) and the cabaret-tinged drama of the swelling ballad "Little Dimes." By the time of the lyrical ambient-electro closer "Spatula," it's a fair question why Wolferman chose to put all of the album's most inventive and musically interesting songs at its far end. Regardless, Painting Over the Dirt requires only the barest minimum of close listening for its subtle charms to reveal themselves.

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