Vapours (Dig)



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Review Text On their previous album, Arm's Way, Islands inflated the sweet and quirky sound of their first album, Return to the Sea, into an unwieldy mess of overly ambitious arrangements and overcooked songwriting. On 2009's Vapours, the band and songwriter/vocalist Nick Diamonds have scaled back the sound considerably and delivered an album of mostly straightforward indie rock with enough lyrical and sonic weirdness to keep things interesting. Plenty of vintage synths, cheesy drum machines, and off-kilter arrangements can be heard, as well as songs with the typically strange lyrical imagery Diamonds has dealt out since his days with the Unicorns. What makes Vapours a success, though, is that the majority of the songs have strong melodies and sharp hooks. The lighthearted, easygoing tracks like "Vapours," "Switched On," and "Disarming the Car Bomb" are the easiest to latch onto initially. Diamonds' wispy, intimate voice proves more than enough to handle the demands of being a pop/rocker, and the band has a light touch as it bounces along happily. As you listen to the record, though, it's the tracks with a little more emotional depth that really grab you. Whether it's the vocoder-led ballad "Heartbeat" or "On Foreigner" (which sounds like a Western take on 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" with its twangy guitars and huge vocal harmonies), the restraint of the arrangements and the hushed intimacy of Diamonds' singing allow the songs to sink in. In the past it would have been a stretch to call an Islands song emotionally honest or even affecting, but they pull it off repeatedly on the album. Showing more than a trace of the bombast of Arm's Way, a couple of songs like "Drums" and "Shining" collapse under their own weight and are the only things that keep Vapours from being Islands' best work. Still, this is a welcome return to form for the band. ~ Tim Sendra

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Switched On - 4:31
  2. 2. No You Don't - 4:44
  3. 3. Vapours - 3:41
  4. 4. Devout - 2:29
  5. 5. Disarming the Car Bomb - 4:11
  6. 6. Tender Torture - 4:32
  7. 7. Shining - 4:01
  8. 8. On Foreigner - 5:52
  9. 9. Heartbeat - 3:08
  10. 10. Drums - 3:46
  11. 11. Eol - 3:21
  12. 12. Everything Is Under Control - 4:06

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