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Album Review

On their previous album, Arm's Way, Islands inflated the sweet and quirky sound of their first album, Return to the Sea, into an unwieldy mess of overly ambitious arrangements and overcooked songwriting. On 2009's Vapours, the band and songwriter/vocalist Nick Diamonds have scaled back the sound considerably and delivered an album of mostly straightforward indie rock with enough lyrical and sonic weirdness to keep things interesting. Plenty of vintage synths, cheesy drum machines, and off-kilter arrangements can be heard, as well as songs with the typically strange lyrical imagery Diamonds has dealt out since his days with the Unicorns. What makes Vapours a success, though, is that the majority of the songs have strong melodies and sharp hooks. The lighthearted, easygoing tracks like "Vapours," "Switched On," and "Disarming the Car Bomb" are the easiest to latch onto initially. Diamonds' wispy, intimate voice proves more than enough to handle the demands of being a pop/rocker, and the band has a light touch as it bounces along happily. As you listen to the record, though, it's the tracks with a little more emotional depth that really grab you. Whether it's the vocoder-led ballad "Heartbeat" or "On Foreigner" (which sounds like a Western take on 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" with its twangy guitars and huge vocal harmonies), the restraint of the arrangements and the hushed intimacy of Diamonds' singing allow the songs to sink in. In the past it would have been a stretch to call an Islands song emotionally honest or even affecting, but they pull it off repeatedly on the album. Showing more than a trace of the bombast of Arm's Way, a couple of songs like "Drums" and "Shining" collapse under their own weight and are the only things that keep Vapours from being Islands' best work. Still, this is a welcome return to form for the band.

Customer Reviews

real good

I really liked this album. It sounded a bit different compared to their older albums but still definitely worth buyinl

what happened??

where are all the sick riffs and clever lyrics? island's new album totally disappointed me!

New sounds!

It seems the cahotic symphonic days of Islands are over; and now a more organized, clear sound is here. They sound more reminiscent of bands such as Of Montreal now, instead of their unique random sounds. Is this good or bad? Well, so far I like the change.


Formed: 2005 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

After the breakup of experimental lo-fi indie rock band the Unicorns, members Nicholas Thorburn (aka Nick Diamonds; vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Jamie Thompson (aka J'aime Tambeur; drums) formed Islands, which found the two more focused on brighter production and neo-psychedelic indie pop. Since forming in early 2005, the Canadian band has also featured a fluctuating lineup of contributors on a wide variety of instruments, both in concert and on record. That list includes Alex and Sebastian Chow...
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