New Islands album washes up

New+Islands+album+washes+up

The Islands frontman, the ever mercurial and productive Nick Thorburn, better known for his explosive first band The Unicorns, has just dropped his seventh album in as many years on September 17th; this latest installment of the Montreal-based band Island’s repertoire is a massive installment, with major returns to the band’s previous themes in past albums and the fanatically tuned perfectionist handiwork of Thorburn is more evident here than in the band’s previous release, A Sleep and A Forgetting (2012). Jam-packed with dulcet melodies and ponderous basslines, this album has the self-importance to make a listener take it seriously, but never loses the musical sense of humor that has made past Islands releases so enticing. For every self-depreciating lament, there’s a jaunty xylophone and theremin backing it up.

The album’s two singles, released before the album dropped, “Wave Forms” and “Becoming the Gunship” are both slow, heavily orchestrated declarations, but the delicacy Thorburn approaches tunes like “Sad Middle” keep the album popping, returning to his more traditional energetic themes. Even the outro track, “Winged Drum Beats” has an energy that provides great contrast with the tracks at the beginning of the album. However, the centerpiece of the album, and its most thematic song is “Becoming the Gunship”. This song’s savory guitar work, backing ever-more-gentle vocals taking apart Thorburn’s experience with his band and it’s music, is an instant hook. It paints a vivid image of unease but is so gently and cautiously approached, you feel like the music is tip-toeing around something profound but never able to reach it. Songs with macabre titles like “Death Drive” have jaunty piano licks over soft singing; the idea of the album is both to express Thorburn’s new direction, but with classic Islands tunes like these, it seems a bit lost. No matter how dark this album tries to get, it never really escapes Nick’s familiar pop guitar licks. All in all, this album, while perhaps falling short of Thorburn’s lofty goals, has the same charismatic charm that has filled the past albums and is expanded upon here in a lovely, energetic way.

4 stars out of 5

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