Canadian indie poppers Islands depart from the lively, steel-drum drenched rhythms and overall sunny disposition that has worked since the foursome's 2006 debut in their latest, A Sleep & A Forgetting. Band singer and chief songwriter Nick Thorburn imbues the band's fourth record with gloomy themes and a overall darker aesthetic all throughout that's no longer quite so synonymous with the band's moniker. Most of the time, it isn't as obvious as it is in "Can't Feel My Face," the upbeat instrumental paired with morose lyrics (like "I miss my wife / I miss my best friend every night / I miss my home / I miss my own bed and my old life"), but a subtle downcast mood lurks behind nearly every track.
"No Crying," for example, slips a wistful tone into the reggae and doo-wop ambiance. Far from the pace of their signature breakneck experimentation, the track has the feel of someone struggling to keep it all together. "Oh Maria," haunting in its sparseness, features only an acoustic guitar and Thorburn's yearning vocals, another bleak tune in an album full of them. The brunt of the songs are lethargic and simple — far removed from the band's traditional sonic signature. "Hallways," on the other hand, is probably the most recognizable to previous Islands fare with its anthemic upbeat piano, an instant toe-tapper and a singular ebullient track shining out from the murkiness of the rest. Along with "Can't Feel My Face" and "Never Go Solo," it also offers a few energetic moments on an otherwise brooding, depressive album.
While the album packs a strong emotional punch, and it's interesting to hear Islands move away from kitchen-sink experimentation and tackle issues of substance, A Sleep & A Forgetting manages to drag in its under 40-minute running time. The group's strength lied in their knack for drawing on varying influences and they falter in sustaining the mood in a way that's interesting or attractive. I'm not sure if anyone was looking for Islands to make a post-break-up album, especially one released on Valentine's Day, but this is it. Take it for what it is. (Out now on Anti-)
Tyler- I can't believe how talented of a writer you are. This article was beautifully…
Great interview! Give the interviewer a full time job! He's great!
The DJ was actually The Castle's very own DJ Tom Gold :)
Fabulous review Gabe! Too bad I missed it.