Album: Charlie Martin – Imaginary People review

by Tobias Moore

Turn on the bright lights – Charlie Martin’s solo debut distils aspects of his work with Austin duo, Hovvdy, into a collection that is more human than we have experienced from him before

There’s not many that reflect on the past as well as Charlie Martin. Yet while the beauty of his work with Will Taylor in Hovvdy lies in their ability to bring to life such memories, within Martin’s first set of solo material rests a different kind of beauty. One that, while similar, takes these reflections and turns them into a fuel for the future. ‘Take another step,’ he sings, ‘I’ll hold your hand’ – his voice walking us, note by note, through the rainy days and forward into the sunset.

As Imaginary People’s artwork suggests, Martin, through memories new and old, builds an idealised image of what people expect of him – perhaps even what they may have wanted to see. But what he delivers is something far more personal – relatable. Almost bittersweet in tone, it is a collection that is far more human than we’ve come to know him for. 

Admittedly, it doesn’t stray far from his previous works – and would I want it to? But what Martin has done so brilliantly is turned up the brightness, and distilled the singer/songwriter aspects of Hovvdy – honing into a sound that, much like a journal, shows us stories that might have previously got lost in the abstract soundscapes. Be it through melody lines full of naivety on September, tinkerings of piano on Rusty, or the warm enveloping reassurance of tape hiss that drifts in and out throughout the record, there’s a shining childlike pride. An album full of has beens, there seems very little regret. Again, as shown in the appreciation of the ‘pretty place we grew up in’ on Madison, an admiration for the minutiae.

It takes courage to move forward and, despite having more clarity than ever for the road ahead, my mind feels its most muddled as it hits the pillow. But as 9AM concludes, I feel ready for what tomorrow brings, safe in the knowledge that whatever the world chucks at me, Imaginary People will be there to help me through it.

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