Thursday, February 09, 2012

Islands: "A Sleep & A Forgetting" (album review)

Over the course of several albums Nick Thorburn, aka Islands, has managed to build a strong following with fresh, creative songwriting.  On February 14th the Montreal-native returns with a brand new studio album A Sleep & A Forgetting.

Islands' music often defies classification.  That's certainly the case this time around as well.  "Never Go Solo", for instance, is a piano-based shape-shifter that moves from lounge number to lilting near-stomper as it elapses.  That stomp is later fully realized on "Hallways".  The breezy melodic pop side is on full display with "Lonely Love".

Credit should go the the band for stepping out of their comfort zone with "Can't Feel My Face".  The songs features an aggressive garage organ riff, which hints at a machismo that isn't very believable coming from this artist.

In as much as that track misses the mark, Thorburn pulls off a real coup with "This Is Not A Song".  Somehow he manages to blends Richard Ashcroft-style emoting with AM Rock balladry to come up with something that gives a big nod to the '70s while omitting the cheese.

The calling card of Islands is the more ethereal work.  Of course that's not absent on the new record.  In fact, the record kicks off with the wafting "In A Dream (It Seemed Real)".  With "Cold Again" they deliver a triumphant introspective art rock spiritual.

There are the occasional flat moments on A Sleep & A Forgetting.  On "No Crying", for example, Thorburn's delivery makes him come across as a third generation Dean Wareham clone.  The bland "Oh Maria" and coma-inducing "Don't I Love You" don't fare much better.

Though uneven, A Sleep & A Forgetting does fall on the good side of the ledger more often than not.  With the diverse sound, there should be something for almost everyone to grasp onto.

Islands play the Music Gallery in Toronto on February 28th.

Best tracks: "This Is Not A Song", "Cold Again"

Track listing for A Sleep & A Forgetting:
  • In A Dream (It Seemed Real)
  • This Is Not A Song
  • Never Go Solo
  • No Crying
  • Hallways
  • Can't Feel My Face
  • Lonely Love
  • Oh Maria
  • Cold Again
  • Don't I Love You
  • Same Thing

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