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Blending experimental landscapes with massive hooks, Islands are a Montreal outfit who rose to power amid the quirky indie pop scene of the late 2000s. Nicholas Thorburn, formerly of lo-fi indie rockers the Unicorns, formed the band in 2005 and focused on making music with brighter production and a neo-psychedelic vibe. Despite a frequently changing lineup, they maintained a steady output during their first decade, delivering highlights like their 2006 debut Return to the Sea and 2016's Should I Remain Here at Sea?. Islands went on hiatus at the end of the 2010s, but resumed work in 2021 with the mainstream-courting Islomania. They followed it two years later with the slightly more spartan And That's Why Dolphins Lost Their Legs. After the dissolution of the Unicorns, members Nicholas Thorburn (aka Nick Diamonds; vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Jamie Thompson (aka J'aime Tambeur; drums) founded Islands. Since forming in early 2005, the Canadian band has also featured a fluctuating lineup of contributors on a wide variety of instruments, both in concert and on record. That list includes Alex and Sebastian Chow (the 1993 and 1994 World Super NES Fest champions), Jim Guthrie (grandson of Woody and nephew of Arlo), and rappers Subtitle and Busdriver. Islands released their debut album, Return to the Sea, in April 2006, supporting its international release with a tour alongside Metric. That May, however, founding member Tambeur announced his departure from the band, a move that required the group to quickly revise its lineup in time for a European tour. Two years later, Islands inked a new contract with ANTI- Records and issued a second album, Arm's Way, which differentiated itself from the previous record by eschewing all guest appearances. The band did end up opening its doors to one particular guest, however, as Tambeur rejoined Islands just in time to appear on their third release, Vapours. His return would be short-lived, however, as the group would announce Tambeur's departure again in 2010, with drummer Aaron Harris, a bandmember between 2006 and 2009, arriving back in the lineup to take his place. In a seemingly endless game of revolving drummers, he was soon replaced by Luc Laurent of the band Pepper Rabbit. The band's next album, A Sleep & a Forgetting, appeared early in 2012. The record was inspired by the dissolution of Thorburn's marriage and featured the most sincere and direct music of the band's career to date. The group's next album, 2013's Ski Mask, featured another new drummer, Adam Halferty, who was joined by two other new additions: brothers Evan and Geordie Gordon of the Guelph, Ontario band the Magic. Three years later in 2016, Islands unveiled their ambitious next project: a pair of distinct crowdfunded albums. Taste showcased the group's electronic, dance-oriented tendencies, while the traditional rock of Should I Remain Here, at Sea? was a spiritual sequel to their debut, Return to the Sea. The band ceased operations shortly thereafter, offering fans some closure with a pair of farewell shows at Webster Hall in New York and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Thorburn spent the next few years working on other projects, but ideas for another Islands record were always percolating. He eventually began working on a collection that heavily emphasized the group's pop influence. Mixed by John Congleton and released in 2021, Islomania was a hook-heavy, bright-toned album with a big sound that flirted with mainstream intentions. Islands' revival continued with their mid-2010s lineup of Thorburn, Halferty, and the Gordon brothers still intact. Their 2023 album, And That's Why Dolphins Lost Their Legs, toned down some of the bombast of its successor while still delivering their ebullient strain of pop.
© Kenyon Hopkin /TiVo


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