Nicholas Thorburn, better known as Nick Diamonds (ex-The Unicorns, Mister Heavenly) is back in full force with his dreamy, pop collective Islands. Their latest effort, A Sleep & A Forgetting, is their fourth album and it is also their most honest, sympathetic work to date.
The album’s opener “In A Dream (It Seemed Real)” has the perfect opening lyric to set the tone for this brilliant album: Open up your door for me and let me in/Can’t you see how cold I am. As content and vivacious the music of Islands was before, this album is filled with despair and isolation in which Thorburn opens up and details a tumultuous end of a relationship. The album’s bluesy beginning sets a melancholic tone that eventually shifts into something a little more reminiscent of happier times but those times are rarely heard. This record seems like an outlet for Thorburn to express his most difficult times and the heaviness on the heart that he endures. A perfect example is on “Lonely Love”, where Thorburn admits: I don’t want no part of this lonely love/I don’t want no part of this love. It is evident that Thorburn is trying to surpass the feeling of self-loathing and isolation.
There is extraordinary percussion work on “Never Go Solo”, and there is also a shift of attitude in the musical aspect, where low and gloomy tones are replaced with sounds that are comparable to indie giants like The Shins and Arcade Fire. There are also hints of a throwback pop and doo-wop sounds from the late-mid 20th century, where the crisp guitar strums on “No Crying” and the vocal harmonies on “Can’t Feel My Face” are contagious as well as mournful.
The happiest moment of the album clocks in at just under three minutes and is titled “Hallways”. It is easily the most upbeat and joyous track on A Sleep & A Forgetting, but it is still not far away from the theme of sadness. This is not the Islands that one might be used to, but it is a transformation into quality musicianship and carefully constructed material. Islands went from a happy-go-lucky jam-pop band to an accomplished group who explore many levels on the musical scale, through Thorburn’s subconscious as well as his soul. The album finishes the same way it started; with somber and exhaustive emotion. Don’t I Love You and The Same Thing are two pieces with extravagant melodies, touching the inner perspectives of love and self-figuration.
As melodramatic as this album might seem, it is a collection of carefully and beautifully arranged tunes that Thorburn and his band produce. A Sleep & A Forgetting is not only a necessity for pop aficionados, but a must for passionate music lovers.
By Alex Giardini