Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Islands / Return to the Sea 8.4

It won't be a shock if, say, Diamonds and Tambeur announce 18 months from now that Islands is kaput and they're kickstarting another new band. And who really cares? As long as they continue to write songs as striking and immediate as the batch on Return to the Sea, their fans will follow them anywhere.

I would care. This album is too good to start thinking about breakups and strife. How about we pool our collective energy to keeping these fellows happy? I bet they like Little Debbie snack cakes. Can we start mailing them Little Debbie snack cakes? Lots of them? Nobody is unhappy when eating mass produced baked goods. Make it happen indie-rockdom.

But on with the business at hand. John Motley your review is spot on. Most of what you wrote i cannot improve on. It's a little short maybe, but I think we all know that John has a busy second career as an important member of the Whig party.

Its rare to find an album that is this effortless in its brilliance. Too often I can actually hear the strain of a band trying to impress me. But apparently Montreal is churning out musical brilliance at a rate akin to their issuance of premier NHL goalies. There has not been a person I have played this for who has not asked me what it is and when they can get it. Islands arrive fully formed, a band that people will discover and love. It bears to repeated listens, evidenced by the fact i have listened to it about 7 times already.

Basically this is the Unicorns all grown up. While the lone Unicorns album was catchy and fun, it was very raw. This is refined and concentrated. Songs are allowed to grow and reach their logical conclusions instead of being cut tantalizingly short. There is much more going on musically here, from the gathering storm of strings on Swans, to the great violin plucks on Rough Gem. Busdriver throws in some rhymes on Where There's A Will There's a Whalebone. Don't like indie-hip hop in your indie rock? Too bad. Broken Social Scene set the precedent so get used to it. Plus it sounds great, so relax.

Again I agree with Motley that the songwriting comes into sharp focus on Return to the Sea. But he neglects to mention the best example of this, the hidden 11th track Renaud. (I forgive you John. It's hard being the 'father of North Carolina'). It is the simplest song on the album, just Nick, his guitar and some background singers. It tells of a childhood friend long lost to adulthood. Stripped away of almost all the production you realize just how strong the band is.

All this and the digipack has a wonderful painting of a shipwreck in ice on the cover. Hooray for good looking album art!

8.4 is a little low in my opinion, but they gave it the Best New Music stamp, so I will shut my bearded little face.

PS: I will be catching Islands next month in LA. I have high hopes for the show. I caught the Unicorns at the very end of their last tour and it was awful. They just stopped in the middle of songs and obviously didn't care about their performance. But that was angry guys breaking up, and I have heard good reports of Islands live.

PPS: Witness the selling power of a good Pitchfork review. Last tuesday this album was hovering around 25 on the Insound best sellers list. On the thursday the review was posted it shot up to #14. Today it is #1. Thats a pretty impressive jump.