Following most traumatic events in one’s life is a catharsis of sorts, an emotional purging in which one searches the depths of their souls for some sort of solace amongst the mayhem and turmoil’s of one’s heart. For Nick Thorburn of Islands, “A Sleep and a Forgetting” is that outward expression of a particular internal despair after the split from a long-term relationship.
As any great band does, Islands’ sound has evolved rather dramatically over the last seven years. I remember listening to the first Islands album, “Return to the Sea,” over and over again in seventh grade, and the evolution of their sound is probably all too appropriate in the lives of many long-time fans. Hints of their debut sound can still be detected in songs on their newest album such as “In a Dream (It Seemed Real)”, in which the lyrical meter creates an all too familiar rhythm with a totally different mood.
This record deserves to be reviewed without comparison to previous works though, as the evolution of one’s personal life lends itself to a natural change in the creative process. This change can be best seen in the second tune of the record, “This is not a Song” which encapsulates the left and lonely sentiment that the entire album carries with it. It’s not necessarily break-up song, but rather an outburst of emotion at what will become “if Penny roams away” or the realization that things aren’t going to be the same anymore.
Thorburn has always been known for playfully dark lyrics; however, in this album, there is a real sense of personal substance to them, the last lyrics of the album being “The ease with which I sleep, tends to frighten me”.
The middle songs of the album plainly draw some influence from Thorburn’s other projects. On “Hallways,” the swinging keyboard rifts and “doom-wop” vocals are closely paralleled by the stylistic elements of Mister Heavenly, a “super group” consisting of Thorburn, Joe Plummer from Modest Mouse, and Honus Honus of Man Man.
I want to say that “Lonely Love” is a demonstration of this evolution I’ve been raving about, but the melody speaks so much of an upbeat beach tune that it’s difficult to pay attention to the entirely downtrodden and ultimately depressing lyrics.
Basically, this album seems to be a grown-up version of Islands’ earlier work, a more mature translation of the fun and lofty sound of yore. I can see something for everyone in this album, whether it’s the tunes themselves or the heavy subject matter of the songs.
Photo courtesy Anti Records