Building a pathway to get through the coronavirus pandemic, guitarist and songwriter Imaad Wasif’s new album, So Long Mr. Fear — out now via Sonic Ritual — is a beautiful, ephemeral burst of light; a beacon of hope and desire in a sea of confusion.
Soft, with a touch of nostalgia, the album shines lyrically, with minimal production and warm, resonating vocals. Rich, acoustic instrumentals create the bridge for Wasif to share personal moments of reflection, distilling both a perseverance and sense of vulnerability that flows from track to track. Throughout the album, Wasif lets his vocals wash over a lush sound in a holistic and harrowing way, strumming up an atmospheric element that is as palpable as the rhythm and melody it lies within.
“Fader,” the album’s first released single, featuring vocals from Jen Wood (The Postal Service, Tattle Tale), flows with a steady pace, like a peaceful tributary coming back to its illustrious river. Almost hitting a somber candor, the single evokes a sense that we are all just parts of a bigger picture, though that is not something to lament over.
The album’s title track, “So Long Mr. Fear” hits with striking lyrics and a specific tone, a beach-pop depression where sunshine is punctuated by hazy skies. Forming over many evolutions, the song lands with a hefty thud and causes pools of reflection to swirl around.
Recorded over the last two years, So Long Mr. Fear is very much an album tinged with emotions spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and the self-isolation period much of the world went through. Rather than letting distance deter him, Wasif used it as an opportunity to re-explore the way he makes music, resulting in an open, explorative and vocals forward album.
“We built a tunnel through the goddamned pandemic,” Wasif says, “and though we never saw each other during the making of this, we were connected in the ether, sending songs back and forth to arrive at their completion.”
This intangible connection through music can be felt in the album’s 10 tracks that ebb and flow with a beautiful symmetry and encompasses the listener in a hopeful, wistful aura. Coming from such an intrinsic center, and constructing his album in a very specific way so as to focus on the lyrics and their messages, Wasif finds himself being more intimate than ever in his work.
“The songs are laid bare for the taking and I can’t walk away,” Wasif concludes. “To be intimate with an audience is perhaps the greatest conflict I’ve encountered in my work, on one hand wanting the connection but at the same time shying away from ever allowing myself to getting too close, for fear that some great mystery would be dispelled. In the end though, here we are again, alone together in this music.”
In addition to vocals by Wood, the album also features vocals from Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). On top of his solo work, Imaad Wasif has toured with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and has made musical contributions to bands such as The Folk Implosion with Lou Barlow and ACID with Jeff Hassey. So Long Mr. Fear is Wasif’s sixth studio album to date.
Words: Patti Sanchez