Return to the Sea
|Listen Now with Amazon Music|
Return to the Sea
|New from||Used from|
MP3 Music, April 18, 2006
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
"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
Top customer reviews
Hopefully the Isands will stick around longer than its mother band, because "Return to the Sea" is an outstanding debut album. Living up to their name, the Islands produce a flowing, fuzzy kind of pop, flavoured with calypso and dancehall music. Imagine Sufjan Stevens on a Caribbean kick, and you have the general idea.
It opens with soft flashes of synth, and some twangy guitar strings being plucked in a rather moody way. As "Swans (Life After Death)" kicks into its catchy folk melody, the eerie synth adds an otherworldly feeling. Nick Diamond croons a song about being reborn on a tropical island, and discovering the joys of being in this beautiful place.
Then they veer into the wonderfully expansive "Humans," which sounds like music-hall piano mixed with a brass band. After that, the band experiments with other kinds of island-folk sounds: bouncy guitar pop, dense folky psychedelica, exotic experimental music, breathless psychedelic rap, and sunny calypso-flavoured pop.
If you ever got shipwrecked on a Caribbean Island with an Elephant 6 band, it might sound -- and feel -- a little like the Islands' debut. Just about any combination of folk, calypso and psychedelica you can imagine will be on "Return to the Sea," done with such polish and confidence that it feels like a band that's been around forever.
Their music is controlled and tight, but with a sunny, giddy little pop edge. They effortlessly mishmash styles (classical and blippy keyboard?), mostly folky, also some dabbles in hip-hop and dense proggy electronica. The songs are seamless meshes of folky guitar, blippy keyboard, buzzing analog synth, swelling violin, kettle drums, and whatever else you can imagine.
Diamond has a rather odd voice -- a little off-key, but still quite pleasant. And he can trip out the slightly morbid lyrics ("Bones, bones/brittle little bones"), written with a flair for description. "Swans sung songs/Till the morning dawned on us/And the sun-smudged peach moon still hung loose..."
The Islands are a pretty new band, but they don't sound like it in their polished debut "Return to the Sea," which sounds like Sufjan Stevens jamming in the Caribbean.
Also, yes they're related to the Unicorns and yes you should listen to Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? and yes it's awesome that as of right now it looks like the Unicorns are getting back together, but to me Islands has been pretty consistently strong and should be more than a footnote in the Unicorns story.
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.