Islands – Vapours

by Benjamin Adams (Business), published August 18th 2011

Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!

Similar to their previous two albums, Islands presents a disc of upbeat, immediately accessible indie pop gems. But while one of the most striking features of Return to the Sea (2006) was the up-front, live brushed drums and layers of warm, acoustic tones, Vapours leaves both of these behind, relying almost exclusively on electronic beats and light synthesized tones.

The whole album, it seems, is an experiment in how programed and digital-sounding music can get without sounding cold and emotionless. Admittedly, many of the attempts to contrast emotion and electronics fall short, giving some of the album’s passages the emotional depth of an old Casio demo.

But the parts that do work shine through. Take the title track for example:  the intro and first verse are so choppy and textureless that it’s hard to see this song being memorable past the last measure. But the fullness of the chorus and the brass of the following verses fill the song out, and provide a stark contrast from the empty beginning, and the song ends up feeling more like an old soul number than a cheap MIDI file.

Overall, the songwriting and melodic style is similar to the band’s previous endeavors, despite the noticeable lack of acoustic instruments that were previously featured so prominently. The juxtaposition of the occasionally dark subject matter and generally cheerful music is very reminiscent of Of Montreal at times, while some of the darker songs have a more Bright Eyes feel to them. While not all of the album’s songs will stick in your brain immediately or send chills up your spine at first listen, they are rarely boring and give an interesting view on how electronic music could sound.

Recommended Tracks: Vapours, Switched on, On Foreigner

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