A Sleep & A Forgetting
If somber romance wasn't a genre before, it is now. The masters of diverse musical skill and songwriting magicians Islands are back, but wearing a collectively different hat than normal, something maybe Roy Orbison died wearing.
The indie-pop outfit threw away the wacky instruments and honed a classic sound, more akin to lead singer/guitarist Nick Thorburn's Mister Heavenly doom wop project than his sometimes over-the-top electro outbursts. It has that trio's antique sensibility, while still allowing for some bubbly pop to rise to the top from time to time. The nostalgia factor helps elevate some of the more plain songs into catchy territory, but the limits of the semi-genre keep any one aspect of the band from excellence. The lyrics also grew up a bit, coming off more smart than smart-ass.
Open up your door for me and let me in, Oh can you see how cold I am.
"This is not a song"
A Sleep & A Forgetting features the cleanest production in the band's short career, with more polish on every note than ever before. The astute punctuation in both playing and singing style pushes the professional vibe even further. Thorburn's love of classic pop is felt throughout, from songs about loss and learning to straight-up love songs.
I miss my wife, I miss my best friend, every night. I miss my home, I miss my own bed, and my old life.
This is Thorburn at his most reserved, all while crooning his life away. His voice nearly welts up as the emotional gravity hangs under his high-pitched guitar plucks, completely constructing a melody out of raw emotion. If this is what Islands is going to be from now on, expect some fans to take issue with the strict stylistic swerve. But trust should be placed in this group, as they have traveled many directions over their musical career and managed to come out shining at the end of them all.
Nick Thorburn told me in an interview last year that he was so proud of this album, that "If I die before I do anything else, I'll die a fulfilled man. I think it's my best work." He might be right, but fans of past Islands work might try to convince him that having fun is more fun than pouring your guts out. The album lacks one powerhouse track to justify such a strong departure, but the collection is inspired and welcome in a drab landscape of never-changing doppelganger musicians.
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