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Vapours

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Nick Diamonds' polymorphous pop band, Islands, is back with their third studio album, Vapours. The 2006 debut, Return to the Sea, found eccentric and mellifluous pop tunes performed with a cast of characters from Montreal's thriving music scene (including members of Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade), helmed by Nick Diamonds and Jamie Thompson.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 22, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Anti
  • ASIN: B002JODULG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,662 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rudolph Klapper on September 22, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Nick Diamonds has never been one to follow the waves of popular opinion. No more so is this apparent than with Islands, the experimental-pop collective Diamonds formed following the Unicorns' self-destruction and whose debut, Return To The Sea, was an eclectic collection of indie odds and ends. Their sophomore effort, last year's Arm's Way, was an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink gumbo of genres and instruments, the production bombastic and reveling in its excess, the band and Diamonds going balls-out in terms of ridiculous arrangements and bizarre lyricism. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that after the lavish results of Arm's Way, Islands latest is almost like a comedown companion to that record, one that turns Islands' sound in yet another new direction but retains the band's strong pop foundations.

Maybe it was all the wild, physically taxing guitar solos. Maybe it was the prohibitive costs of hiring another full orchestra. Or maybe Diamonds and company just got sick of writing seven-minute-plus songs without sounding pompous. Whatever it is, Vapours is a concise twelve-song set with nary a one going over five minutes, highlighted by the kind of easygoing, electronica-based indie pop that opener "Switched On" typifies. A rollicking drum machine and bass rhythm propel a gently flowing melody and Diamonds' bright vocals into the kind of effortless pop chorus that Islands have always been capable of before, but never with this kind of ease. It's what makes unassuming tunes like the thudding, funky pulse of "Devout" or the hypnotic, dreamy soundscapes of "On Foreigner" such instant pleasures, the kind of songs that immediately call to mind the dog days of summer, with nothing to do but soak up the sun or cruise down a burning highway.
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Format: Audio CD
Thank god Nick Thorburn got his stuff together. After the bloated mess that was 2008's Arm's Way, he's scaled back substantially and made a simple synthpop record in the vein of the Unicorns and the first Islands record. And fortunately for us, he got it right. Where Arm's Way was a mish-mash of disparate styles, Vapours is tight and controlled, allowed to sprawl when appropriate, but typically very concise and effective. It's a record with a great, lively pulse and a bit of a (no pun intended, seriously) island flair. I'd venture to say that it's pretty much impossible not to at least nod along to some of the pop gems Nick has put together here.

Standouts for me include opener "Switched On," which has one of the best vocal hooks of the year. It's a funky, mid-tempo love song, but it manages to safely avoid all the typical cliches. "Tender Torture" is another favorite for me, with some oddball lyrics that I think have something to do with being stuck on a desert island with coconuts (it's probably deeper than that). "Heartbeat" is a really strong example of Nick's synth leanings, with very artful use of a vocoder on the vocal track, which tends to get overused on any record that calls itself synthpop these days. All in all, a great pop record that any fan of the Unicorns or Islands will dig.
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Nick Thorburn is back to being Nick Diamonds for this third album, but don't expect a Return to the Sea. This album has more bubble to it than the previous two albums which means the songs are short, precise and catchy, but it also means that it can feel somewhat transparent at times. Jamie is back on drums for this one, but the rest of the band is new so don't expect the orchestral sound that you might be used to. In fact, this record goes so far as to bring in auto-tune on the song "Heartbeat" which is a surprise, but manages to fit the album. The songs range from the simple love tune "Tender Torture" to the ominous "Shining". Overall this album feels very complete from start to finish. Highlights include "Devout" and "On Foreigner".

This record isn't comparable to any of Nicks previous work which might scare some away, but it's worth a listen. And if you are looking to a good counterbalance to this album, check out what the other half of the Unicorns is doing with the album Clues: Clues!
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