REVIEW: Islands - Vapours

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Lyndsay Hieneman:

You know the story of Nick Diamonds, right? Boy puts together the adored and now defunct Unicorns, boy goes on to form Islands, Reefer, and Human Highway. Perhaps Islands’ third full length album, Vapours, will give Diamonds an incentive to sit down and do the one thing most men shy away from: commit. Islands is becoming a mainstay in today’s indie music scene, and Diamonds ought to be realizing that he has something good going on with this band. He better not break up this beautiful relationship.

What’s so great about Vapours that gives Diamonds a reason to stop playing the field? Well, to keep it simple, nearly everything. Vapours packs the punch without hitting you right in the face. Rather than blowing you away with pure power, a bombastic orchestra, and everything and the kitchen sink (as we heard on Islands’ 2008 album Arms Way), Islands blows you away with understated genius. They know they’re good. They’re so good that every song is a slice of concise, indie pop mastery.

You also can’t help but to wonder why such a pop-friendly band hasn’t gained a bit more recognition. There’s a track for everyone on Vapours. Want something to play while relaxing? The psychedelic “Everything Is Under Control” feels like the height of summer, complete with waves rushing under spacey synth blasts. Want something to dance to? Try 1-2 beat of the disco infused “Devout”. Oh, and of course, the subtle sexiness of “The Drums” will fill any other musical requirements you might need out of this album.

Even though the band has reigned in their sound, that doesn’t mean they’ve lost that quirky kick that exemplifies the Island sound. Don’t worry. Vapours is endearingly weird. The kitschy synthesizers that embellish the album are a retro novelty. The funky “No You Don’t” sounds like a track that should’ve been on the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s cheap, cheesy, but so good. Vapours takes another step into electro-weirdness on “Heartbeat”. The marching drums sound pretty normal, likewise for the lazy acoustic guitars. When the auto tuned vocals come in over the normalcy, you can’t help but to think Lil Wayne is smiling somewhere.

That venture into hip-hop territory might seem off the wall enough, but Vapours doesn’t stop there. Diamonds’ lyrics stray far from the safe zone that such a sunshiny sounding album should have. He warns “don’t buy dope from the man you don’t know” on “No You Don’t”. He humorously sings about what seems to be a hostage situation in “Disarm The Car Bomb”. The album reaches its weirdest point on the dark, feedback distorted “Shining. Diamonds sinisterly sings about poisoning food, back alleys, stabbings, and finally, getting girls into his room. Yeah, he goes there. It makes for a damn good track and quite possibly the best on Vapours.

Have the ever-changing Islands finally found a good place to settle down at? Yes. This album has the hooky choruses, the breezy, lilting melodies, and the propelling beats to keep you contently listening until the closing track. It’s the perfect melding of past Islands attempts with a fresh, more unified sound. But will Islands ever settle into this newfound cohesiveness? Probably not. It’s nothing to be concerned over. They will continue to do what they do best, and that is writing smart indie pop with a large dash of peculiarity. Let’s just hope that Diamonds sticks around long enough to conceive a few more Islands hits.


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