Islands- Vapours

Islands- Vapours
10/10

Unsurprisingly, Nicholas Thorburn and co have produced an album that’s dauntingly broad in scope, exciting in experimentation, continuously generous in flow and eccentric like the man himself. Thorburn has built his musical catalog on eccentricity from the very beginning with the weird and varied output of his first band The Unicorns, who rank with the very best, and not just in the sentimentality stakes. His edgy, angular, brave, outsider pop has a heart so big it’s bursting, created in his own world in which he plays his often theatrical, always delightful and regularly death-obsessed (read: The Unicorns’ one and only album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone) music. Now, after some varied and epic dalliances (the rap troupe Th’ Corn Gangg, the Hawaiian stoner collab Reefer, the impressive folky pop duo Human Highway, and no doubt many more to come), Islands has grown from a giggling baby (Return To The Sea), through the awkward teenage years (Arm’s Way) and into the luscious pasture of adulthood (Vapours). Thorburn’s still plagued by oddball thoughts, but it’s these thoughts that give such life to his absurd creations.

Starting with the cosmopolitan bliss that is ‘No You Don’t’, Islands confirms they’ve paved their own way their entire existence. The reggae electronica is inherent in its swampy blues bass, and Thorburn’s trademark quirky croon adorns the song’s every beat with life full of concurrent hope and despair. Vapours brings the sass. Thorburn adopts various subtle demeanours throughout; vapid socialite commentary, a harsh bitter wail, a drifting, ceaseless croon. It’s every bit imaginative and thoughtful as I’ve come to expect from Thorburn, inspired and inspiring at every twist and turn – and there are many.

Every single song feels like a highlight. The title track is a sprightly, tightly-coiled pop affair, an obvious single standout. Its singalong chorus and driving drumming is empowering, with bristly brass punctuating each movement’s end. When the song segues seamlessly into the following blippy ‘Devout’, Thorburn’s direction becomes apparent and he sounds more assured than he may have ever sounded. The astounding vocoder on ‘Heartbeat’ proved to be an ecclectic highlight, a captivating, not overused effect that gently turns his voice into another kind of interesting, morphing Thorburn into the future. The stark and glaring electric percussion in ‘The Drums’, the strobe-effect rhythm in ‘Tender Torture’, bent with noodling synth and a backwards reverb sound, the syncopated, deathly drumbeat in ‘Shining’ featuring dark hip hop guitar rock with an intoxicating choir.

All of Islands’ releases have been beautiful and impressive, but Vapours is the most fun and genuine feeling of all. Its predecessors Arm’s Way was so expansive it felt confused, and Return To The Sea, while tremendously majestic, meandering and boasting many memorable pop gems (including ‘Jogging Gorgeous Summer’ and ‘Where There’s A Will There’s A Whalebone’), fell short with its frequent “in-between” songs. Vapours is a non-stop, no filler album. It has a live band quality that its precursors lacked, which gives the impression it could be the most fun album live too. Islands have found their footing with Vapours.

Buy on CD or MP3 at InSound | LP available October 20- Pre-order on InSound

Posted by Sarah Gooding under Album, Reviews
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