Posted by: will | May 12, 2006



Islands "Return To The Sea" (Equator)

While I certainly enjoyed The Unicorns, I never fully bought into their incredible hype. They were just too damn goofy for me to take seriously at times. I have never been a big fan of "humorous" music. However, with Islands' Return To The Sea, I may have to reevaluate my conclusion on The Unicorns. While Islands certainly have their silly moments on Return To The Sea, the band seems to take the Unicorns brand of pop and turn into something with a little more staying power. With The Unicorns, one could be left feeling bewildered, almost like one feels while in the midst of an inside joke that they are not in on. Islands seem to take their pop craft more seriously and that allows the listeners to become more involved. It certainly pays dividends for the band.

The album starts off with the inspired nine-minute "Swans (Life After Death)" which shows that Islands are certainly a whole different beast than The Unicorns ever were. Where The Unicorns seemed to live by improvisation, Islands are a much more calculated affair. The arrangements are massive in scope and the instrumentation is beautifully varied. Horns, strings and upright bass make appearances all over Return To The Sea. You get the feeling that Islands probably spent more time creating one of these songs then The Unicorns spent making the entire Who Will Cut Our Hair When We Are Gone? album. The sixth track, "Where There's A Will, There's A Whalebone" is an incredible mish-mash of the Islands' pop mixed with some interesting hip-hop. It serves well as the album's centerpiece. It also serves notice that nothing is out of bounds for Islands to attempt. The band's ability to write such varied songs is what makes Return To The Sea an indie pop lover's dream.

Return To The Sea is certainly a fantastic album. Considering it is only the band's debut is even more impressive. The greatest trait of the group seems to be their ambitious nature. That ambition that shines throughout Return To The Sea certainly convinces me that the best is yet to come for Islands.

RIYL: The Unicorns, The Shins, Super Furry Animals




  1. It’s funny, because I really REALLY wanted to hate The Unicorns record, but I ended up really liking it… This record has been in my “need to listen” pile since it leaked in January.

    This might be just what I needed to finally give it a listen.

  2. LOL I just wanted to say that your post mentioning the Unicorns caught my eye on the blog surf thing. Your post is about Islands but we seem to want to comment on the Unicorns!

    The full version (or remix?) of “Who will cut our hair” is the one piece of my teenaged daughter’s music I actually love and play way high. So sorry to hear they had split up way before I had even heard of them. That’s what happens to you when you get older and don’t pay atention to music.

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