Islands make another great, not incredible album

islands vapours

Islands has released three albums now, and they’ve gained a lot of attention and critical praise. Their first record, Return To The Sea, is their best to date. It put them on the radar, and set them up for success, but it takes more than just one great album to make a career. Their sophomore attempt, Arm’s Way, wasn’t bad necessarily, but it didn’t meet a lot of expectations. For many, it was a wash. Now, Islands has released their third full-length and we’re stuck somewhere in between the first two. Vapours is not a let-down, and it’s not remarkable. It’s, plainly put, very good. But is that good enough for the 7-piece Canadian wonders?

There isn’t much of a consistency on Vapours, and I think that’s ok. The style of “Switched On” is not the style of “Vapours” is not the style of  “Devout.” But most of the songs are remarkably well-written and solid. The band sounds like they’ve been playing together for years and, well, they have. They’ve never really struggled with sounding professional and together, but on Vapours, they sound especially comfortable. The title track, “Vapours,” seems to come effortlessly, like it’s an old staple for them. On later tracks, Islands dusts off your favorite synthesizer from the 80s and updates it for 2009. They use the instrument like it was intended, and make great bouncing, sweeping tracks that would easily force a blush out of A Flock Of Seagulls.

“Switched On” and “Vapours” are the easy singles on the album, giving you that hook you love to grab on to. “Tender Torture” and “Disarming The Car Bomb” are only one step behind, delivering the pop with stronger, more involved song writing. Just about every other song is good. It’s almost incredible listening to track after track that delivers good, hard talent. So why then is the album not a such a gem? It’s confusing, and it’s very much in the style of Islands. When you look at a lot of the great records of 2009 (Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors and St. Vincent all delivered some), you notice a very definite sound that comes through. The songs are all different, but they fall in line with a certain feel the artist creates. Islands has a collection of wonderful songs that all fall together well, but the band didn’t unite them under one roof, and that’s the only downfall of Vapours. Islands continues to give us great material, but falls short of making something incredible.

Islands – “Vapours” [MP3]

Islands – “Switched On” [MP3]

Islands – “Tender Torture” [MP3]

Buy Vapours on iTunes

1 comment to Islands make another great, not incredible album

  • Jon

    I agree with your review, I do like their music, but there is something about the non-stop midtempo sound that, while pleasant, can kind of become droning and forgettable.