It seems Islands founder/singer/songwriter Nick Thorburn has no interest in standing still. His songwriting themes always stay the same - bones, ghosts, death - but his pop has progressed from the keyboard hooks of the Unicorns, to Islands' first record of Paul Simon-influenced Caribbean music. For the band's second full-length, they've changed again, sonically if not thematically, to slightly more theatrical, bombastic orchestra pop. Just in time, too: Vampire Weekend's taken to squatting on their former turf.
Other details stay the same here: there's the shimmering opening build (just like "Swans," their last album opener), a slight croon to Thorburn's voice (like all of his songs), and a set of vague symbols wrapped in wordplay. He's widened his scope though: the string arrangements courtesy of the Chow brothers push to the front of the song to parry with Thorburn's lead guitar. Reminiscent of, oddly enough, the hook to the Eagles' "Journey Of The Sorcerer," the opening guitar and string counterpoint encapsulates the drama that the lyrics only imply.
Islands now wear black rather than white. It fits Thorburn's lyrics better anyway. "The Arm" is a disembodied harbinger of death, from what I can gather, which turns the protagonists' partner into "a lifeless carcass in a badass car crash." It's the "badass" that stops the line from being morbid, and that makes the rhyme. The use of "badass" to defuse what was almost a truly gruesome image has been a signature Thorburn move since the Unicorns. Change up the hooks before they get old, interrupt sentiment with absurdity, cut a letter off the front end and make the cliches new.
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