Islands: “This Is Not A Song”
It’s almost fitting that indie-pop alchemists Islands released their fifth record A Sleep & A Forgetting on Valentine’s Day this week. From the lonely rose on the black-and-white cover to song titles like “Never Go Solo,” “Lonely Love” and “No Crying,” it’s pretty clear this is a break-up record. A Sleep & A Forgetting documents the dissolution of Nick Thorburn’s (aka Nick Diamonds) relationship with his long-term partner. But the record is also one of the most cohesive, straight-forward and, yes, enjoyable releases to date from a band known for quirky, and sometimes over-the-top, sonic experimentation.
The Candadian-bred Islands was actually born of dissolution. The group came together after the 2004 break-up of The Unicorns, Thorburn and other Islands-founding member Jaime Thompson’s (aka Jaime Thompson) former band. With undeniably catchy tunes and a lo-fi cuteness, the Unicorns were critical darlings. It was a sound, with a bit more polish, that Thorburn and Thompson carried onto Islands’ debut record Return to the Sea. Subsequent records found Islands dabbling in synth-y pop bombast, but they never quite lost the quirky charm that made them great.
But it’s a new day for Islands on A Sleep & A Forgetting. A refreshing waft of chilled-out soul permeates the record. It’s a vibe that’s most evident on today’s song of the day “This Is Not A Song.” The down-tempo tune begins on a mournful minor-chord. The bass line is pure soul as are the sliding guitar licks. By the time the strings swell near the end, it’s pure R&B. Thorburn doesn’t so much sing his lines as he breathes them. You can hear the pain in his voice as he reaches the chorus, “So why do I find it so hard to move on, feels a crime to be crying for this long.” But all is not lost, as the melody alludes to some hope. Like any hard break-up once you realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel, you can move on. And it sounds like Thorburn and his band Islands are on their way.
You’ll get to hear “This Is Not A Song” and others Friday when Islands plays a show at St. David’s Episcopal Church.