Unicorns, Islands, and Other Magical Things

Music Review: Islands Edition.

No, I am not writing this from The Bahamas or Taiwan. This review is about a band called Islands.

I have a lot of history with this band. Which is to say, I listened to them in middle school and high school. Which is to say, I listened to the band that Islands used to be before Islands existed, a band called….The Unicorns.

Their song, “I Was Born (A Unicorn)” is charming and upbeat and funny. Later it would become the most frequent winner of a game I like to call “How Many Drugs Were Had During the Writing of this Song.” Regardless, it’s still a fantastic song. Listen to it here:

Anyway. The Unicorns broke up in 2005 and two of the members (Nicholas Thorburn, vocals, keys, guitar, and Jamie Thompson, drums) formed Islands. Not literal islands. A new band called Islands. I was really into their album Return to the Sea and especially the song, “Swans (Life after Death)” in 2007ish.

And then I sort of lost touch with Islands. I became landlocked, if you will. That is, until two days ago…

While browsing some indie corner of spotify, I stumbled across a brand new single by Islands (!!!) It’s called “Back Into It,” which is extremely relevant, as is the opening line “Those songs we used to sing// we haven’t sung them in so long.” It’s like Islands is reading my mind! I hadn’t listened to them for a decade! Ah!

So it turns out Islands has, in fact, come out with a couple albums between 2006 and two days ago (including one of their most popular songs: “Hallways” which is super catchy and wonderful), but this was the first time I had heard them since my high school days many moons ago because apparently I live under a rock. Nostalgia.

But enough about me. Here’s the exciting news: Islands is about to release not one, but TWO new albums.

What?! Can you even do that? Two albums at once? The answer is yes, you can. Islands has declared it so.

Their first upcoming album, Taste, is described as a “muscular, crystalline affair, with the majority of the music electronic, buoyed by drum machines, programming and arpeggiated vintage synths…and [goes] in directions that Islands has never tackled, including police brutality and white male privilege.” Color me intrigued. The first single off the album was released at the end of January: “Charm Offensive”

“Back Into It,” which I mentioned above, is the first single from the second upcoming album Should I Remain Here at Sea? which is described as “a spiritual sequel to the debut album, 2006’s Return to the Sea; a natural, raw record, stripped down to it’s essentials, performed live off the floor.” Which makes me indescribably happy because the song from my high school throwback moment “Swans (Life after Death)” is from 2006’s Return to the Sea.

Yes, Islands! Nostalgia overload. Think of a song/album you listened to all the time ten years ago. Now imagine that band declaring a sequel to that song/album today. Just for reference, in 2006, T-Pain was in luv (wit a stripper), Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back, and Nickelback was basking in their deeply unfortunate golden age. Now you know how I feel.

But let’s get back to the new music. “Back into it” does indeed have a taste of the old Islands. With a peppy beat and chunky electric guitar, it has a bright feel, but dig a little deeper and there’s a surprising edge. “It’s a study in contradiction” says the band.

Meanwhile, “Charm Offensive,” feels much more electronic and production-heavy, with synths, drum machine beats, and pop-y vocals–as would be expected from the band’s description of the upcoming album. It’s danceable, catchy, and interesting. A treat.

Islands’ new albums are expected in May. Until then, enjoy the singles and if you feel so inclined, picture little high school hipster me listening to Return to the Sea on my neon-green, 250 megabyte mp3 player on the city bus home some years ago. Ah, memories.

Oh, and if you happen to google the band, be sure to type “Islands band” because if you just search for “Islands” you’ll just get pictures of Fiji.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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