Islands – Vapours
Record Label: ANTI- Records
Release Date: September 22, 2009
Listening to Vapours makes me wonder how I ever liked Arm’s Way. Islands are at their best when Nick Thorburn’s love of easygoing pop wraps itself around his other love of strangely deep lyricism. Arm’s Way became “crutch music” almost instantaneously. Its creepy darkness leans heavily on a very specific mood, and it turns out finding oneself in that mood is sort of like winning a lottery if the cash prize is actually a shit prize. So consider this a retraction.
Vapours begins with Islands’ version of a bright, smiling face. A tribal guitar riff – get off my back, I’m trying here – showers us in sunlight before achingly sweet falsettos meld into one happy note. I don’t know how much of this tone change can be attributed to Jamie Thompson’s return, but let’s just hope that he never leaves Thorburn again. And then there’s the 80’s electronics of “No You Don’t". The song keeps the lackadaisical delivery of Arm’s Way, which works as a wonderful counterpart to the uplifting tropical vibe. "Vapours" finds Islands reaffirming their own mission statement: simple pop with a brain! Trumpets back Thorburn as his lyricism takes a cliched concept and gives it legs: “It’s the bassline in your mind / It’s a sexy way to cry / You know I had my share of doubt / Until I saw the Vapours in your eyes.” An Islands album doesn’t have to explode in our face to garner attention. Here songs just need two or three well-crafted ingredients to leave long lasting impressions.
It wouldn’t be a 2009 indie album without some autotune, and that’s what we find on “Heartbeat.” The slightly druggy vibe – another one of Islands’ strong points – gives this tired trick new life. And then comes Thorburn’s catchiest song since Human Highway’s “The Beach.” “The Drums” take another blah concept (sirens?!) and melds it into toe-tapping delight by layering heavily produced drums and the semi-chorus of, “Bruised skin / I can’t take another hit / Without you.” Although the longer songs (“On Foreigner” and, especially, “Disarming The Car Bomb”) work, it’s the brief ones that make Vapours so instantly enjoyable. The allure and head-scratching might be gone. The inner turmoil might have (mostly, umm, sorta) faded away. (Hell, the closer is called “Everything Is Under Control.”) Feel at ease though, you won’t miss any of that crap. Instead, Vapours has ensured the future of this band.
Recommended If You Like: Unicorns, Washed Out, smelling fly, Anything That Came Out in the Summer of 2009, Super Furry Animals, The Rural Alberta Advantage