photos and video

Islands: A Super Brief Video History



Art-popping show-stoppers Islands are going to be playing a show at LPR on Saturday. Before you lace up your dancing shoes, you might want to acquaint yourself with the pretty drastic ways the Quebecois group has evolved since the turn of the millennium.

What is now Islands was once The Unicorns. Notable for their poppy hooks colored by a gritty, low-fi production aesthetic, the band boasted a strong concept from their earliest releases- bubbly, unapologetic pop rock with surprisingly dark lyrics. Case in point- 2002’s ‘Jellybones,’ off of their first release, Three Inches of Blood. While this and their next album, Unicorns are People Too, were released in very small numbers, a burgeoning online music culture picked up on the new group’s surprising maturity, and tracks were heavily disseminated online. Here’s the ‘Jellybones’ video:


After a dramatic final show in 2004, The Unicorns disbanded, and from the ashes rose Islands. A joint venture by former Unicorns Nicholas Thorburn and Jamie Thompson, Islands released their first album, Return to the Sea, in 2006 on Equator Records. The album retains much of the offbeat weirdness of The Unicorns, but adds influences of calypso and lush string arrangements; hits like ‘Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby’ and ‘Rough Gem’ synthesized carefree youthfulness with audacious new approaches to rhythm and harmony. Here’s the ‘Rough Gem’ video. Seamless textural changes, expertly executed alternations in tempo, and ultra-funky bass exemplify the continued growth of the artists. Awww, puppies!


Fast forward to 2008’s Arm’s Way on ANTI- records, at which point the band had lost Jamie Thompson, gaining drummer Aaron Harris in his stead. The roster of performers who make up Islands is constantly changing and sometimes confusing- Thompson, for instance, rejoined the group in 2009 only to leave again in 2010. Anyway, in the interim such singles as ‘The Arm’ dropped into our musical consciousness, bringing with it an even fuller attention to rich orchestral harmony, and slightly harder-hitting, vaguely disco-inspired textures. Here’s a video clip of ‘The Arm:’


After that came 2009’s Vapours, also on ANTI-. The growth in songrwiting capability of this release is stated outright in the lyrics, with references to the layered thirds that flavor many of the tracks. I’m talking specifically about ‘Heartbeat,’ which makes the very most out of the group’s foray into electronic voice manipulation. The equally-tempered thirds in the album version of the track are total ear candy, but just to prove that the album doesn’t use electronics as a crutch, here’s an acoustic version.


A Sleep & A Forgetting, the newest album, came out on Tuesday. Given their track record, you can bet there will be some ridiculous new sounds at Saturday’s show, so make sure you’re there to witness next step in Islands’ evolution. The show is also free for members– you lucky members!

posted by Forrest Wu