“Hey Chicago how you doing tonight? You look nice. Ok let’s stop sucking each other’s dicks, for real.”
Front man and pioneer, Nicholas Thorburn, of the Quebec-based four-piece Islands said this affectionately to the audience at Lincoln Hall this past Thursday night.
Islands is made up of loose bits and pieces of like-minded bands, namely Montreal-based The Unicorns and “super group” Mister Heavenly. Current members include Nicholas Thorburn, Evan Gordon, Geordie Gordon and Aaron Harris. Islands released A Sleep & A Forgetting on Valentine’s Day 2012. During their set, Thorburn announced they plan to release a new album in the fall of 2012.
Their finely-tuned and professional sound lacked the eccentricity that had given Islands their high tide ratings in the past.
The video projector display of high frequency waveforms, taken from the synthesizers overtones, resembled the pulsating static similar to that of an old TV set. The backdrop was chaotic and didn’t quite match the tone or mood of the music being played. Islands are pure pop when stripped of the rare guitar influxes and soft harmonics of Thorburn’s vocals. The new sound is easily comparable to a Brian Wilson or early Wilco album, which is not shocking considering Anti- Records’ roster of similar sounding artists: Billy Bragg, Spoon and even Dr. Dog.
A Sleep & A Forgetting was named after a William Wordsworth poem and was described by front man in their blog as “a bummer of a record, pretty much the whole way through.”
The typical reader could ascertain that this is in fact sarcasm, part of Thorburn’s notoriously erratic personality. Could some of that unpredictability he so outwardly possesses have been projected on stage? Perhaps. Yet signing to a new (and major) label while swapping members over the course of seven years might have suppressed their impulsivities a bit. The show was rehearsed, but little insecurities popped up here and there.
“We are always seeking your approval.” Thorburn interjects between songs while switching instruments. The crowd’s reaction amuses him until an audience member makes a request.
“That is a song—it is not an Islands song, but this next one is an Islands song from an earlier album.” The crowd anticipates with initial excitement that immediately turns into an unenthused confusion. Thought bubbles appear above listener’s heads as the smoke fumes gathered on stage. Which song from which album did they play is hard to say, but it did get room riled up a bit.
In the end the band pulled off quite a neat and polished performance, given all the ups and downs of their career—their show set the stage for what may be to come: a solid, pop band that has the catchy tunes and warm familiarity likened to a nice day on the beach.