CD Review of Imaginary Kingdom by Tim Finn

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Buy your copy from Tim Finn:
Imaginary Kingdom
starstarstarstarno star Label: EMI/Parlaphone
Released: 2006
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Tim Finn has been making great pop music for roughly three decades now, and has been rewarded for his efforts with conquering hero status in his native New Zealand. Here in America, naturally, he’s a cult artist, and Imaginary Kingdom is an import-only title.

Don’t let label oversight keep you from grabbing a copy, though; even at inflated prices, Kingdom is worth owning. Matter of fact, if you’ve got a soft spot for smart, beautiful pop music, it just might make your personal Best of ’06 list. It certainly ranks among Finn’s best work. Considering Finn’s career discography – he was a founding member of Split Enz, and joined his brother Neil’s band, Crowded House, for the group’s stellar Woodface album – this isn’t meaningless praise.

Generally speaking, Finn’s seventh solo album is cut from the same cloth as previous releases; in typical Finn family fashion, its songs are equal parts atmospheric, indelibly melodic, willfully abstruse, and heartrendingly beautiful. As he’s entered the late afternoon of his musical career, Finn has adjusted his focus accordingly, addressing themes like familial bonds and mortality; subjects, perhaps not accidentally, as rewarding as they are difficult to fit within the constraints of a four-minute pop song.

Walking the musical line between meaningful topics and hooky, immediately gratifying arrangements isn’t easy to do, and Finn has teetered on either side; his recent albums, both solo and with Neil as the Finn Brothers, have all had their less-than-stellar moments. Though Kingdom isn’t perfect – it gets bogged down a bit in the second act – it comes awfully close. There are no truly false moments here, just a songwriter at the top of his game; the album works as both a collection of solid pop songs and as a series of heartfelt, often deeply moving ruminations.

It’ll doubtless find an American home eventually, but there’s no point in waiting; order Imaginary Kingdom now. It’s really that good.

~Jeff Giles