Matt Gold, as half of Sun Speak, is familiar with complex-yet-friendly guitar-based instrumental post-rock. On his first solo record Imagined Sky, Gold purveys more guitar-based post-rock, albeit with a wider instrumental and vocal palette. Opener “Augusta Fairgrounds” will warm the heart of any Sun Speak fan, as there’s not much a difference between Gold and Sun Speak on this one.
It’s with “Queen Anne” that Gold sets out the new directions for the record, as a warm synth whirrs elegantly to start the tune, met by Macie Stewart’s clear, excellent vocals. Bass guitar follows, and then finally guitar and drums (in his traditional style) come in. Even with the patterns of the guitar being similar, they’re put in much more pop-oriented mode here, eschewing gnarly turns of guitar runs for tag-team vocal performances. “Petrichor,” featuring vocals by Sara Serpa, pushes that impulse even farther, leaning into a smoothed-out, angle-less, artsy indie-pop frame that is more evocative of My Brightest Diamond than Sun Speak.
“Truehearted” is the center of the record, a piece that features Gold’s own very-capable voice in a surprisingly confident, folksy, finger-picked, acoustic guitar setting. Fluttery synths hang out in the background for texture. This is an impressive track that certainly shows another side of Gold’s work. “Between the Four Seas” is another acoustic-guitar work, this time an instrumental that applies the intricate work of his electric guitar to the quieter realm. It’s equally as charming as “Truehearted,” if a little less immediate in its connection.
The rest of the tracks will be more familiar to fans of instrumental work. “Bottom of the Barrel” has some Southern-rock crunch to the tone and melodies, which is really quite appealing. “Dollarama” is a slow-paced, wide-screen look at Gold’s work at walking pace, and “Crimes” fills out the record with Sun Speak-ian drama. Overall, this record is impressive, with the extensions of Gold’s sound all landing very capably and entertainingly while not diminishing the quality of the work he is so expert at. It’s a rare feat to have your cake and eat it too, and Gold has certainly done that here. The listeners are the beneficiaries of his rare skill. Highly recommended.