Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Album Review: Islands – Arm’s Way

It’s a beautiful day in my neighborhood, friends, and should be so in yours, too. Why, you might ask? Well, it is a happy day indeed, for there is a new Islands album to relish and rejoice in! And I tell you what, it’s pretty darned good.

You might recall that Islands rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the sublimely weird, wonderfully oddball, yet sadly short-lived Unicorns. Happily, that pervading sense of sonic strangeness has been kept alive, and once more rears its many heads on Arm’s Way. It’s a cacophony of noise, a mash-up of melody, a yummy swirl of freaky off-kilterness, though deep down at the roots it's only rock’n’roll. If you’re down with musical schizophrenia, then this could just be something you’ll like quite a bit.

It’s a great listen from its head down to its toes, every song enchanting and endearing in its own special way. I must confess, I dig it even more than its predecessor, Return to the Sea. As quirky as it is, it feels like less of a ramble and more pulled-together. It’s a study in controlled chaos, randomness with restraint. Great lines abound, as you might expect, including “if you wanna be a shark/you better learn to stay awake,” from “Life in Jail.”

There are several standout tracks for me; the bouncy “Pieces of You,” Sasquatch ode “Abominable Snow,” the very possibly addictive “Creeper,” and the absolutely wonderful “I Feel Evil Creeping In,” a devilishly good song I had heard live years ago and am thrilled to see on the new album.

I’ve read a couple not-so-hot reviews of Arms Way, and I don’t get it. Sure, it sounds a little darker than their debut, but it’s a fine album all the way through. So pay no heed to those other reviews, I highly recommend you give Islands a shot.

Oh, Canada, I like you for many reasons, and today I thank you for Islands.

And for those in the DC area, go and listen to the good word of Islands at the Black Cat this Thursday. See you there!

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