Islands Strike Gold On Not One- But Two- New Releases
By Brody Coronelli - Link: Twitter
Islands are no strangers to indie-rock charm. Led by Nick Thorburn, the former frontman of the quirky, cult band The Unicorns, Islands emerged in 2006 with Return to the Sea: an album full of charismatically far-fetched summer songs that gave Thorburn’s unique and cherishable songwriting a skin to walk around in. Since then, Islands have been hitting back at a steady pace all the way up to 2013’s Ski Mask. In a prolific feat, this longtime indie staple has followed up Ski Mask with not one, but two records; a prolific move for a band that released their first five albums at a fairly steady pace. The primarily electronic and crystalline Taste and the stripped down, pop-rock tinged Should I Remain At Sea are both follow ups to Ski Mask; each offering a unique and holistic vision that delivers from beginning to end.
On Taste, Islands embark into cosmically electronic territory, employing touchy synthesizers, drum machines, and dance-oriented beats to make an album that functions as both a charming indie-rock followup as well as an enamoring alternative-pop affair. Thorburn’s vision is laid-back and punchy, utilizing the catchy contrast between cool synth arpeggios and balmy lead guitars to craft diversive songs that house his light hearted, poetic provisions with class and groove. Although this formula tends to drag when it’s slowed down (“Outspoken Dirtbiker” never quite lands), it’s absolutely electric when made to dance to. “No Milk No Sugar” employes a multicolored arrangement of synthesizers, subtle guitar leads, a geometrical groove, and a hook just soft enough to get into your head-- becoming utterly infectious when the song begins to bloom. Perhaps the best example of this idiosyncratic pop harmony is the song “Snowflake”. With a hook that goes on for miles, a seducing guitar lead, and a temperament laced with splendor, it’s one of Taste’s most shining moments. “The Weekend” seems to directly reference all the “it’s Friday night, time to let loose”-esque pop songs on the radio, embracing the theme and executing it with slick, ‘80s magnetism and a bold sense of self awareness.
Taste is Island’s closest step into pop music so far, and if there’s one thing the album proves, it’s that the band wears the moniker well. Anyone not afraid to embrace their pop sensibilities through a peculiar filter is sure to indulge.
Listen to: “Charm Offensive”, “No Milk No Sugar”, “Snowflake”, “The Weekend”
Should I Remain Here At Sea?
On Islands’ other offering Should I Remain At Sea, the band embraces a stripped down, return-to-form style of rock that’s almost as minimalist as it is emotional. Recorded entirely live, the album feels authentic, tart, and melancholic as it strips instrumentation down to the essentials and relies on them-- alongside Thornburn’s engaging and literate lyricism-- to guide the songs into pop-rock fascination.
Should I Remain Here At Sea feels much more like a traditional Islands record; just the band making memorable music with as little as possible. In almost every instance, Islands make the most of this formula, crafting slick hooks and short-and-sweet songs just charged enough to get into your head. “Fear” utilizes two interlocking, contrasting guitar leads each with a slick groove as Thorburn glides across pessimistic lines like: “The dream is a lie/You wake up when you die”. Lyrically, “Fiction” tackles religion as a whole, taking a firm humanist standpoint and turning it into a pop-rock proclamation for the masses. “Right To Be Misbegotten”, one of the album’s slower cuts, bats eyes with ennui, taking a laid-back instrumental and alongside clever, honest, and prose-worthy lines like “I woke up late the day I die/It’s my right, a thousand pounds of light”.
As a whole, Should I Remain Here At Sea is a quintessential Islands record in the flesh: no gimmicks indie rock loaded with lyrical charm and boasting hooks that keep the songs going in your head long after they end.
Listen to: “Back Into It”, “Don’t Stop Now”, “Right To Be Misbegotten”