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Return to the Sea

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hailing from Montreal, Islands is a 7 piece band founded by former Unicorns front man Nick Diamond and drummer J'aime Tambeur. Following the untimely disbandment of the Unicorns right as they were on the cusp of breaking through, this highly anticipated debut release by Islands entitled Return to the Sea, with its quirky sounds and refreshing, catchy melodies, contains collaborations with members of Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and Beck.

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"I woke up thirsty on an island in the sea," went the last line in the last track on the last album by beloved indie rock pranksters, The Unicorns. At least two members took those words to heart, as frontman Nick Diamonds and drummer J'aime Tambeur return as Islands, a Montreal duo that reigns in some of its former band's more obnoxious qualities in favor of more manicured melodies and purposeful arrangements. Oh, who are we kidding? The seven-minutes-plus opener, "Swans (Life After Death)," sets the insane tone, showcasing sprawling rhythms and a freewheeling arrangement that leaves room for epic guitar solos, blustery piano flourishes and a falsetto vocal lead. It's like "November Rain" on magic mushrooms. Other highlights--if you could call them that--come in the form of the faux Caribbean jam "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby," the spacey instrumental centerpiece "Tsuxiit," and the frankly convoluted prog-rock-goes-hip-hop of "Where There's A Whale, There's A Whalebone." Warning: They Might Be Giants sound rational in comparison. --Aidin Vaziri

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Swan (Life After Death)
  2. Humans
  3. Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby
  4. Rough Gem
  5. Tsuxiit
  6. Where There's A Will, There's a Whalebone
  7. Joggin Gorgeous Summer
  8. Volcanoes
  9. If
  10. Ones


Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 4, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Equator
  • ASIN: B000ELJAU6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,660 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
It's hard being a Unicorns' fan. They galloped onto the scene sometime around 2003 from Montreal, with the album "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone", luring unsuspecting listeners. Everyone was having fun. Everyone was looking forward to the unicorns flying high. But, before fans could find their saddles, before the dust had even set, the Unicorns went missing. Shortly after, it was confirmed The Unicorns had split up.

Nobody knows exactly why. Some sort of bickering? In any case, the devastation that followed is ever present. Thousands of wondering fans clogging up message boards. Lying siege to whatever b-side track they can find. It seems after all that was said and done... there are still plenty of people around to cut their hair.

So something is given to you and then taken away. Its hard to get over it. And now frontman Nick Diamonds and drummer J'aime Tambeur have managed to salvage what's left of the band. It seems these two had split up only to find they were floating in the same direction anyway. Washed ashore, bruised and battered the surviving members take refuge on an Island. Ironically, the final words "I woke up thirsty on an island in the sea" on the last track of Unicorn's album, was spot on. And in many ways Islands is a band that continues the legacy of The Unicorns. Picking up the pieces, but, somewhat wiser, more grown up, and a little more cautious.

Its difficult to pick this up and pretend the Unicorns never happened.

The band has lost much of its naivety, youthful invincibility, and with that, lost the charismatic care free (almost careless) antics. Its not as fun. Its lost its cartoonish rocky horror show spectacle. Short balloon-popping tracks, are traded for more tamed and expansive songs.
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Format: Audio CD
I was a little late in hearing The Unicorns, and about one week after I'd finally gotten their Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? album, they broke up. They briefly reformed as Th' Corn Gangg, a side-project with MCs Busdriver and Subtitle, then once again split, with two-thirds of the band forging on as Islands.

Having heard the goofy, somewhat sloppy pop of The Unicorns, I was caught off guard a bit by how polished Return From The Sea sounds. There are still some buzzing analogue synths and occasionally silly vocals, but there are also plenty of horns, woodwinds, some strings, and an absolutely huge step in terms of songwriting and instrumentation. It doesn't take any longer than the first track for that to become apparent, as "Swans (Life After Death)" plays out for nearly ten minutes, opening with some strummy guitar and theremin-sounding keyboards before locking into a building verse and chorus that moves through several smooth progressions before dropping into a classic-rock inspired end section.

After the waltzing "Humans," the album hits what is easily the best section starting with "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby." Clocking in at only two and a half minutes, the song is easily one of the most catchy on the entire album, mixing slightly morbid lyrics with infectious instrumentation. "Rough Gem" does its best to top the former track, blasting gloriously giddy synth-pop punctuated by strings and reeds that hit in all the right places.
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Format: Audio CD
When Nick Diamond and J'iame Tambeur announced that The Unicorns were done, and they were starting a new project called Islands, I was outraged. Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone was one of my favorite CD's at the time, and I couldn't get enough of The Unicorns. It was like being cheated on a girlfriend who promised to elope, only to find she was cheating the whole time. It just felt wrong. I needed more Unicorns.

After a while of mourning, I finally heard the MP3's of Islands's Abominable Snow, and Flesh, and I thought they were fun, and Unicorn-like songs. Abomiable Snow being about an encounter with a yeti, and Flesh seemed to bring a sexy side to Diamond's writing. I was no longer mad at Unicorns.

Return to the Sea opens with an epic opener Swans(Life After Death), where Tambeur's drums are the main focal point to the song, changing moods after five minutes or so. In my mind it's one of the best opening tracks on a CD since Arcade Fire's Funeral.

Rough Gem is one of those songs that have the riff that will never leave your head, with keyboard, violins, and then a synth.

My favorite track on the CD is Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone, where there is one of the best raps I have ever heard. I really have no idea if it is any of the members of Unicorns or if it is a rapper from Anti-con or something, but it is phenomenal.

Another track that stands out for me is If, where there's a low swing, and a soft saxaphone solo that makes it one of the best moments in the CD.

Islands are my new Unicorns, and if I hear the news that Islands are breaking up, but moving onto some other project, I will no longer mourn, but be anticapited for more greatness.
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