Montreal's Unicorns, originally a duo formed by guitarist and vocalist Nick Diamonds and Alden Ginger, concocted mildly electronic lo-fi pop on
Unicorns Are People Too (2003) and
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone (2003), that featured
drummer Jaime Tambeur.
Nick "Diamonds" Thorburn and Jaime "Tambeur" Thompson formed Islands, that debuted with
Return to the Sea (Rought Trade, 2006).
The highlight of the album is the exuberant nine-minute fantasia Swans,
whose upbeat vaudeville-esque singalong
evoked the era of the Mersey-beat, although the singing sounded
like a David Bowie wannabe
orchestrated by Todd Rundgren,
with a rowdy guitar coda worthy of Neil Young's
Humans is a ditty for marching band that could have been a scene in
Kinks concept album.
Their deliriously catchy retro-pop embraced
country-rock (Don't Call Me Whitney Bobby),
blues shuffle (Volcanoes),
romantic balladry of the 1950s (If),
Caribbean jingle (Jogging Gorgeous Summer).
The time vortex was further spiced with
the surreal exotic instrumental Tsuxiit
and a demented Frank Zappa-esque skit
like Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone.
Naive and light-weight, the collection did not aim at revolutionizing music
but it was entertaining and far from trivial.
Having lost Thompson, Islands' second album
Arm's Way (2008) was, to say the least, disappointing: it sounded like
leftovers from the previous album, masquerading under a string section and a
generally more theatrical stance.
Islands' humbler Vapours (2009), that relied instead on
vintage electronic devices, was a confused collection of mediocre material,
mostly conventional pop muzak (No You Don't,
with the occasional nod to Abba-era disco-music (Tender Torture, Devout).
The general torpor is shaken only by
the raw power-pop of Disarming the Car Bomb.
Nick Thorburn also played with
Mister Heavenly (Out of Love),
Human Highway and Reefer.
Meanwhile, Ginger formed Clues with Brendan Reed of Arcade Fire, but the
awkward Clues (Constellation, 2009) suffered from an identity crisis.
A Sleep & a Forgetting (2012) and
Ski Mask (2013)
were increasingly personal albums by
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