Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Islands gathers up disparate personalities to create new album

  • Print

At first blush, Ski Mask might seem like a strange name for an album — but it’s less so when you consider how much imagery is bound up in what is, really, a utilitarian piece of clothing.

Islands’ fifth album explores confusion, violence and anonymity — and, according to frontman/ founder Nick Thorburn, "the power and control that comes with that."

But, at its core, Ski Mask is a record about identity — specifically, Islands’ identity as a band.

"I think it was a natural thing that was born out of the fact that many of these songs existed for six years before finding a home on the record."

Nick Thorburn

Musically, the new album, which was released last September, is a stylistic collage of all the ideas that were hinted at throughout a strikingly diverse catalogue. Each album presented a different iteration of Islands: off-kilter indie pop experimentalists (2006’s Return to the Sea); hazy psych rockers (2008’s Arm’s Way); electropop purveyors (2009’s Vapours); and serious singer/songwriters (2012’s A Sleep & A Forgetting). At the heart of these sonic adventures is Thorburn, 32, who has served as Islands’ anchor.

"It’s an assessment," Thorburn says of the new record. "It feels like a recapitulation. An itinerary check. I’m taking stock.

"I think it was a natural thing that was born out of the fact that many of these songs existed for six years before finding a home on the record," he continues. "Shotgun Vision and Becoming the Gunship are two songs I wrote years ago and they just didn’t fit on other albums. As the years progressed, they still resonated with me."

Ten years and five albums in, Islands — which these days includes Evan Gordon, Geordie Gordon, Adam Halferty and is now based in Los Angeles after calling Montreal home for years — is at a turning point. Many critics have read into Ski Mask’s lyrics, inferring that this might be the band’s swan song. But one could also draw the opposite conclusion: that this is the sound of a group that has found itself. After all, as Thorburn so often likes to say, "Islands are forever."

"I’m sure it’ll just change," he says. "Change is inevitable. I’d like to keep going with it."

Besides, Thorburn’s still got songs that haven’t found homes yet. "I stumbled upon another one yesterday, actually — it was kind of a companion to a Mr. Heavenly song," he says, referring to his collaboration with Honus Honus (a.k.a. Ryan Kattner) from experimental Philadelphia act Man Man and Portland drummer Joe Plummer, who has played in Modest Mouse and the Shins. "I was like, ‘Oh, this is kind of good.’ I’m glad I kept it."

One could even expect a followup to Mr. Heavenly’s 2011 Sub Pop debut, Out of Love, in the future. "Nothing concrete, but we’ve all expressed an interest in making another album."

There’s also been renewed buzz about another project. Thorburn was a founding member of the much-loved indie rock act the Unicorns who, along with the likes of Arcade Fire, the Hidden Cameras and Wolf Parade, were an instrumental part of the nascent Montreal indie-rock scene of the early 2000s, before breaking up in 2004.

In February, various music media outlets reported that a possible Unicorns reunion and a reissue of 2003’s benchmark Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? are in the works. But Thorburn, who knows how much the Unicorns meant to their fans, wants to manage expectations.

"It’s still talk," he says. "I’d love it to get beyond talk but it hasn’t progressed beyond that."

Whether it manifests as Islands, Mr. Heavenly or Unicorns, Thorburn’s got no shortage of creative energy. "I’m trying," he says. "I’ve got lots of ideas."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Jets Bogosian-Little-Ladd

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Horses enjoy a beautiful September morning east of Neepawa, Manitoba  - Standup Photo– Sept 04, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Goslings with some size head for cover Wednesday afternoon on Commerce Drive in Tuxedo Business Park - See Bryksa 30 Goose Challenge- Day 12- May 16, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think volunteers dragging the Red River is a good idea?

View Results

Ads by Google