Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
Photo by Melissa Trott
That which gave Islands much of their cachet when they first showed up a few years ago – namely that they were the spawn of The Unicorns – actually put them behind the 8-ball for me. Namely because I didn’t like The Unicorns.
It’s been many years since I actually heard the Unicorns but I do remember it predated blogs, MySpace or anything else that made sampling easy. They had a website or something that offered some samples but the process of actually accessing them was not simple and I don’t know if they were deliberately not putting their best foot forward, but what I heard did not match up with all the accolades I was hearing… and so I put them out of mind. I didn’t take much notice when they split, nor when two of the three band members returned as Islands and even after seeing them live a couple times – and enjoying them – my initial Unicorns prejudice still clouded my opinions.
And so their new album Arm’s Way is actually the first recorded work from Nick Thorburn I’ve heard. I’ve done my best to approach it with a wholly open mind and that’s been made easier by the fact that the record brings to mind not The Unicorns, but Patrick Wolf. Like Wolf’s Magic Position, Arm’s Way is an epic exercise in prog-pop grandiosity, all sweeping strings and expansive songs and while Thorburn’s vocals are more anxious than arch, they share a theatrical delivery that suits the musical accompaniment. Tightly and immaculately arranged, it’s not at all what I would have expected from a band that I have more than once applied the adjective of “shambolic” and does raise the question of what their old-time fans, even the ones dating back to the Unicorn days, think of the new sound. On the downside, it’s a bit of an exhausting listen – overlong, at the very least – but better to be worn out from a long, interesting journey than from boredom, and Arm’s Way is far from boring.
Islands are at the Phoenix tomorrow night, May 29, hopefully in their new all-black stage uniforms. The all-white thing they were sporting in the past may have seemed like a good idea in theory, but when everyone in the band apparently has different laundry habits, it can end up being a dozen shades of off-white and just look a little sad. CMJ, Chart, This Is Fake DIY, eye and North By Northwestern have features on the band. And courtesy of ANTI Records, I have five copies of the new album to give away. To enter, send me an email at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to rock, I want an Island” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body. Contest open to Canadian residents only and will close at midnight, May 31.
Sigur Ros were the news of the day yesterday, announcing that they’d release their next album Meo suo i eyrum vio spilum endalaust (or With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly for non-Icelandic speakers) in just a few weeks on June 24. They’re giving away an MP3 of the first single, the unfortunately-titled “Gobbledigook”, on their website for the low price of your email address. They’ve also got a nudity-filled video of the song available to watch on the site as well.
JAM, East Bay Express and Examiner talk to R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Inside Bay Area, North Bay Nugget and The Province to bassist Mike Mills about the working process behind Accelerate. They’re at the Molson Amphitheatre on June 8 and the episode of Austin City Limits they taped during SxSW apparently aired last week. If you missed it, you can see a clip of the performance below.
M.I.A. tells JAM that following her visa issues with the US, a move to Montreal might be in the works. But first she’ll visit Toronto for a sold-out show at the Sound Academy on June 2. She also talks to The Calgary Herald.
The Tripwire has got a sample of the bonus disc that will accompany the June 10 reissue of Rob Dickinson’s Fresh Wine For The Horses – you know, the one consisting of acoustic redos of Catherine Wheel songs that is supposed to entice us to buy the record twice. Which we’ll do, of course, but perhaps wait until June 18 when Dickinson is at the Mod Club and can buy it from him in person. I’m pleased that it seems he’s gone to the trouble of doing properly produced recordings and arrangements of the songs rather than just plop a mic in front of himself and doing it live off the floor – “Crank” sounds terrific. FAZER also has an interview with Dickinson (thanks to the commenter below).
Though not out until next week, Spinner is currently streaming The Futureheads’ new record This Is Not The World in its entirety, while Drowned In Sound parses the record from top to bottom with the help of the band. This Is Fake DIY has also got a video interview.