Montreal's Islands requires minimal introduction, as two of its principals (Nick Diamond and J'aime Tambeur) were members of the late-lamented, lovably scruffy indie rock enterprise The Unicorns. The question the crushing tsunami of musical punditry will advance is this: Is Islands' Return To The Sea as good as The Unicorns' Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? The answer is yes. The Islands effort is equally ambitious but more ornate and perhaps even willfully over-expansive. Hooks are staked here and there among calypso shanties, big prog synths and arena rock guitar solos.
The set's opener clocks in at over nine minutes, although it certainly doesn't feel that long. Return To The Sea is fluid, its track delineations not hard. The big-guitar denouement of "Swans (Life After Death)" inexorably flows into the swelling horns and piano in "Humans." "Rough Gem" is likely the band's strongest calling card (but not its best song title, what with such titular standouts as "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby"), having a bounce like the best Robert Palmer jam and wacky Heartbeat City/Sgt. Pepper's instrumentation. Throughout, the instrumentation can be unexpected. So, too, the lyrics. The whimsical "If" suddenly sprouts alto saxophone in one section, while Diamonds softly threatens "if you don't savor me, I'll salt you and make you savory." Gorgeous album closer "Renaud" proclaims itself by omission via five minutes of the sound of rain. Return To The Sea, in all of its sprawling poptasticness, streets April 4 on Equator. It's a clicky clicky Now Sound Fave (see righthand column).
Scour The Hype Machine for Islands MP3s [Doink!]