Let’s face it, Nic Thorburn just churns out the tracks, time and time again. Last year he threw Arm’s Way at us, and then backed it up with another solid outing under Human Highway. Now, his buddy Jaime Thompson, another ex-Unicorn, has rejoined Islands to record Vapours.
One thing you’ll notice as soon as you press play on this disc, or touch the needle to the record, is that the guitar has seemingly disappeared. Sure, Nic and Jaime have always had an affection for oddities included upon their work, but after all the guitar work Nic put into his last few releases it seems odd that he would leave it off. “Switched On” just seems like a collection of drum loops with Thorburn’s vocals patched atop. Don’t get me wrong, the vocals are great as usual, with Nic’s unique inflection and range, but there’s just a lacking of punch.
“No You Don’t” also has a danceable jive all over, which will no doubt get you moving your shoes, but the minimal guitar work makes this seem like an entirely electric affair. Still, you’ll find that the electronic affair clears out enough space for “Vapours” to enter the room. It comes across as the first song to fully utilize the guitar, miming the sound of Albert Hammond Jr., intentionally or not. And as the album winds its way to the end, you’ll find that more traditional songwriting does take place, just don’t expect it to be nearly as prevalent as the last effort; this may be good, as many people thought the last one was a bit too self-indulgent.
“Tender Torture” is personally one of the more rewarding songs. Washing over the song is a mass collection of samples and beats, but Nic maintains his domineering presence throughout, and you just can’t ignore the man’s voice. It’s one of the most remarkable, and he pushes it through various different notes, both high and low on this tune.
And really, up to this point, all the songs are pretty enjoyable, each offering various things for various listeners. Upbeat danceable songs countered with mellow electronic soundscapes. Honestly, it’s really reminiscent of Kevin Barnes move after he changed up from Satanic Panic in the Attic and then went to Sunlandic Twins. Could this be a climatic change for Islands as it was for Of Montreal? Only time will tell.
But, one thing going against this record is the way that it drags on towards the end. It suffers from an odd sequencing, much the way Arms Way just wore you out by the end. All in all, this new Islands effort is something that you’ll find rewarding, and ultimately you’ll uncover various secrets for you as a listener as time goes on. Vapours is an album that shows the group who always seem to change, still changing; only time will tell how this will pan out for the group.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Islands-Vapours.mp3]
Download: Islands – Vapours [MP3]