Islands - Islomania Music Album Reviews

Islands - Islomania Music Album Reviews
On their first album in five years, Nick Thorburn’s ever-evolving band takes a pop-friendly turn. With neon synths and disco grooves, these songs are Top 40 at heart.

How do you follow the Unicorns? Nick Thorburn has offered a lot of answers over the years. Since that group’s breakup in 2004, Thorburn has filled his time juggling side bands and solo projects. In between, he has scored a film, dabbled in rap, authored a graphic novel, directed and toured with Michael Cera, and composed the theme for Serial. By far his most prolific creative outlet, however, has been Islands, an ever-evolving band that released seven albums in the span of a decade, all of them good and one of them, their 2006 debut Return to the Sea, a pillar album of indie rock’s big-tent era. For a musician who never became a household name, that’s a hell of a CV.

Despite these accomplishments, there’s no denying his discography is front-loaded. Even his best records with Islands never resonated on anywhere near the scale of 2003’s Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?, which has lost none of its sugar-rush intensity or cult appeal. This may be part of the reason why, without ceremony, Thorburn retired Islands in 2016. He never formally announced his decision, but as he later told Stereogum, “I had nothing left to give and nothing left to say.” Retroactively learning that Islands broke up is a surprise. Learning that the breakup did not stick, however, is not. Musicians who record as voraciously as Thorburn seldom quit for good.

The comeback album Islomania is the group’s first in five years, and like most Islands albums before it, this one is a departure. Ratatat’s Mike Stroud lends some guitar and John Congleton, known for his work with St. Vincent and Angel Olsen, mixed the record. These collaborators might suggest something prickly or texturally askew, yet Islomania is anything but. From its disco grooves to its neon synths, this the band’s most pop-forward album yet, with few of the detours and little of the digressive oddness that have animated Thorburn’s defining records.

As a general rule, when a band writes a song about dancing, as Islands do here with the beach jam “(We Like To) Do It With the Lights On,” they’re making a bid for a larger audience. And sure enough, most of Islomania is optimized for mass appeal. The digitized disco tribute “A Passionate Age” is the closest Thorburn has ever come to Daft Punk; the synth-slapped funk of “Closed Captioning” could easily be reworked into a Maroon 5 or Bleachers track. Though it’s mellowed over the years, Thorburn’s voice retains some of its boyish, indie charm, and a few of the arrangements are dressed with blaring saxophones that hint at art-rock. But the songs themselves are Top 40 at heart—featherlight and direct, more interested in pleasing than in challenging.

Perhaps this radio-friendly makeover is Thorburn’s way of joining the ranks he’s inspired. The Unicorns’ impish spirit has reverberated, however indirectly, through alternative airwaves by way of bands like MGMT and Foster The People and their many interchangeable offshoots. Comb through Spotify’s “Indie Alternative Synth Pop” playlist and you’ll hear dozens of bands indebted to Unicorns’ brand of liberating quirk. If others are profiting from commercialized versions of that sound, why shouldn’t Thorburn, too?

Thankfully, Thorburn sings with such sweetness and sincerity that Islomania never feels like a cash grab. On “Never Let You Down” and “Marble,” you can hear in his voice a bit of Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, and in the music that band’s desire to draw vast, hugging crowds at festival stages. These songs are genuine and open-armed, and there’s always room for music like that. But what’s sorely missing is the fuck-around energy that made even Islands’ later work so exciting; even just a few left-field twists could have gone a long way toward breaking up this very conventional set. Thorburn’s best albums sound like nobody else could have made them. A lot of acts have already made ones like Islomania.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Islands - Islomania Music Album Reviews Islands - Islomania Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on June 23, 2021 Rating: 5


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