Ski Mask (Wb) (Dig)



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    Ski Mask (Wb) (Dig) Manqué Music

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Review Text Islands' previous album, 2012's A Sleep and A Forgetting, was the most honest and direct album Nick Thorburn had yet made. Revolving around his divorce, the record was heartbreaking and true in a way that was slightly unexpected from someone with his track record. Until that album, Islands' trademark was light, breezy, and weird indie rock, but their move into a more adult and carefully constructed style totally worked thanks to the strength of the songs and the obvious pain that Thorburn was able to truthfully transmit. The group's next record, Ski Mask, came very quickly after A Sleep, and it's mostly more sad dispatches from a guy whose heart sounds more than broken, it seems completely shattered and is proving hard to put back together. Apart from a few upbeat songs like "Waveforms," a tune that rides some very chipper sounding vibraphone and Thorburn's peppy vocals, and the razzmatazzy "Nil," the album digs into a melancholy place where atmospheric ballads and slowly unspooling tales of despair are the order of the day. Due to the subject matter and overall tone, it's not exactly a laugh a minute, but the album is no slog to get through, either. The songs have strong choruses, the melodies are memorable, and thanks to the help of the brothers Gordon of Ontario electro pop band the Magic and Thorburn's more assured record-making skills, the band sounds great. Thorburn's sweetly aching vocals are surrounded with rich piano and string arrangements, vintage synths, and huge-sounding backing vocals, giving the album a three-dimensional feel that surrounds the listener in a tear-filled blanket of sound. Sure, it's a little weird at times -- the hushed ballad "Of Corpse" has some truly off-putting lyrics -- many other songs have little twists you wouldn't expect in such sadly adult-sounding music. Everything works really well when it's all put together though, and while it's unfair to wish for Thorburn to keep feeling rotten, it's true that he makes some fine, deeply emotional music when he does. Fans of early Islands albums may feel Ski Mask to be a little on the morose side, but anyone who's ever had a heartbreak can appreciate what Thorburn is going through and admire how tunefully and truthfully he's dealing with it. ~ Tim Sendra

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Wave Forms - 3:53
  2. 2. Death Drive - 3:50
  3. 3. Becoming the Gunship - 4:51
  4. 4. Nil - 2:07
  5. 5. Sad Middle - 3:05
  6. 6. Hushed Tones - 5:17
  7. 7. Here Here - 4:19
  8. 8. Shotgun Vision - 3:08
  9. 9. Of Corpse - 4:16
  10. 10. We'll Do It So You Don't Have To - 4:15
  11. 11. Winged Beat Drums - 5:49

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