How Nick Thorburn had the time to make two separate albums among all his other projects has to be one of life’s greatest mysteries. The frontman of the band Islands is also a , , composer of the music from the hit podcast Serial (he wouldn’t tell us if he thinks Adnan is guilty or not) and much more. He chatted with Apt613 about Islands’ two new albums, set to drop May 13, and the band’s upcoming show at Ritual Nightclub on May 17.
The tour for the new albums starts in Ottawa, so their show at Ritual “will be fresh out of the oven”, Thorburn says. “I’m excited. It’s been forever. This will be our first show in a year and a half, and it’s going to be exciting for us to try these songs out for the first time. We’re going to put an emphasis on the two new albums, but definitely dip back to the old songs as well”.
“It’s been 10 years, it’s an assessment – it feels like I’m reassessing everything, that was the starting point.”
The band made the albums available for pre–order on a site called , a direct–to–fan music site that gets fans involved in the release of albums. Fans can pre–order various formats of the albums and get things like drawings, handwritten lyric sheets and even a private show by the band (when we talked to Thorburn, he was busy drawing pictures to send to fans that had pre-ordered the albums).
However, as their PledgeMusic write-up says, “don’t get it twisted: This is not a double album – These are two distinct, entirely unrelated records”.
Taste, billed as Islands’ sixth album, is a bright, synth-filled affair, but as with almost everything that Thorburn does, there’s an attitude about it. A sarcastic, almost rancorous, undertone lingers through the bouncing backbeats and reminds you that there’s more substance here than some of the other electronic music of recent days.
Should I Remain Here at Sea? is the band’s seventh record, and Thorburn describes it as a “raw, introspective” work. By no means should that imply that it is sad or boring, though. Several of the songs feature dreamy, 1950’s Fender twin tones that would sound at ease on a Camera Obscura track. The lyrics speak of disenchantment and pack a sardonic punch. Thorburn tells us it’s a sort of sequel to Return to the Sea, the band’s first album, which was released 10 years ago. “Time is a mutherfucker” he says of the fact that it’s been a decade since Islands’ first release. “It’s been 10 years, it’s an assessment – it feels like I’m reassessing everything, that was the starting point.”
Islands has always had a bit of a split personality, so it’s intriguing to see the band’s introspection bring out an honesty and acceptance of their different sides. These albums allow them to dive deep into their personas, giving each one a chance to shine in its own right.
Both of the albums venture into new territory lyrically, dabbling in politically influenced lines, which Thorburn says is a departure from his usual writing style:
“I just felt like it was time for me to have an opinion, I usually keep that stuff kind of personal, because it’s so embarrassing to see a musician try and pontificate about something they don’t have experience in. I don’t want to come off as flippant… But when we were recording there were things happening like the Baltimore situation with Freddie Gray, and the church in Charleston that was burned, there was just a lot like America’s unexamined race problem and that situation, and it just motivated me to say something”.
Thorburn says that they didn’t start with the idea to produce two albums. “I’ve always got a stockpile of songs when I’m writing, and I’m always kind of writing, and I just hold on to songs and put them into pile or a drawer and revisit and see when the time comes if they’re worthy… I wasn’t sure if it was going to be one record, but it started to feel like it was stylistically all over the place, I didn’t want the songs that were quieter and had a little more subtlety, I didn’t want to lose those. It started to make sense to have two records, one more rhythmic, one more stripped down and natural”.
Check out the video for Taste’s “No Milk, No Sugar” – a perfect visual to one of our favourite Cards Against Humanity Cards, ‘A Disappointing Birthday Party’. It features a cast of comedians you may recognize:
Apt613 has two tickets to see Islands perform at Ritual on May 17. To enter, send an email with the subject header “Ten years” to firstname.lastname@example.org. A winner will be selected by random draw on lucky Friday, May 13 at noon.