Music News

Islands

Please excuse Nick Diamonds and Jaime T'ambour while they resurrect themselves. If you'll recall, they bought the proverbial farm at the conclusion of the Unicorns' landmark Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, a sort of fey, goofy, indie-rock Final Exit. The Canadian pair have since jettisoned Alden Ginger, taken up with a slew of Arcade Fire-associated luminaries and rapper friends, and reemerged as Islands. Opener "Swans" simultaneously acknowledges glories past while plotting a lusher future; it's a temptingly ornate, piano-trimmed pop masterpiece that quotes Crazy Horse and finds Diamonds stranded on the same isle where the Unicorns expired. Death fixations and Tinker Toy, tiptoeing keyboards are usurped or swamped here by grander, sometimes orchestral ambitions, even as Diamonds' decidedly twisted sense of humor and tongue-in-cheek psychosis remain. Thus, Return to the Sea is one batty, insidious daydream after another — the fiddles-'n'-pedal-steel, string-section-conjoined giddyap of "Volcanoes" collapsing into an unhinged Pavement rout; "Humans," a dark showtune about disaster survivors driven to cannibalism; "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby," an unbearably chipper, Violent Femmes-style ditty wherein the narrator can't figure out why his deceased, desiccated girlfriend is so darned skinny. Who knew — Biggie Smalls and Tupac aside — that life after death could be so fulfilling?

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Ray Cummings