Unicorn-turned-Islands front man Nick Thornburn (aka Nick Diamonds) is a busy man. In the past two years the Canadian musician has released four albums: Human Highway's Moody Motorcycle, Reefer's Life Narcotic (with L.A.'s Bus Driver), and Islands' Arms Way, the follow-up to their breakthrough Return to the Sea.
Islands third full-length, Vapours, brings back the melody that was missed on Arm's Way without duplicating or sounding formulaic, fitting better with their previous albums. This is probably due to the return of drummer Jaime Thompson to the line-up as well as a response to the heavily constructed previous effort. Back are the "oooh" and "aaah" backing vocals and tropical/tribal drumming, and there's a noticeable use of synthesizers in place of violins.
Opening track "Switched On" eases you into this new sound, and it's a refreshing one, even when using Auto-Tune on "Heartbeat," which doesn't sound cheesy but adds another side to Islands that we haven't heard before. When Nick sings "Uncross my arms to disarm the car bomb," it sounds as if he's almost reluctant to do what he knows how to do best - releasing crowd-pleasing catchy pop-rock songs - instead challenging us to listen closer for the offset grooves.
Changing with every album, Nick Diamonds is becoming more and more like David Bowie, which resulted in some misses among his many hits; I will be putting Vapours in the hits pile.
You can catch Islands on October 24 at the Troubadour in L.A.
Album title: Vapours
Songs: (1) Switched On (2) No You Don't (3) Vapours (4) Devout (5) Disarming the Car Bomb (6) Tender Torture (7) Shining (8) On Foreigner (9) Heartbeat (10) The Drums (11) EOL (12) Everything Is Under Control