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Album Review

The Mary Onettes' second album is a marked improvement over their debut. That self-titled record had an icy synth pop sound that did little to help the songs come to life; the few that did hit were so in thrall to the band's obvious heroes, Echo & the Bunnymen, that it was almost embarrassing. Islands has a much warmer sound, with the jagged beats and cold keyboards replaced by warm strings and softer, more epic-sounding percussion. The arrangements are fuller, richer, and more organic as well. Vocalist Philip Ekström cuts back a bit on the Ian McCullough croon, just a bit, but enough to make it less obvious who he's cribbing his style from. The reduction of affectation adds extra emotional power to his singing and makes it expressive and effective, instead of jarring. Islands is truly an emotion-packed record filled with missed connections, failed plans, heartbreak, and death.

Biography

Formed: 2000 in Jönköping, Sweden

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Highlighted by ringing guitars and reverbed vocals, the Mary Onettes formed in Jönköping, Sweden in 2000. The band -- Philip Ekström (vocals, guitar), Henrik Ekström (bass), Petter Agurén (guitar), and Simon Fransson (drums) -- experienced false starts in the music industry, as it first lost a record deal and then released an EP through Sony in spring 2005 before parting ways with the label. The group was about to self-release all future recordings until a demo wound up with respectable Swedish indie...
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