Unicorns and Islands

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Unicorns Are People Too (2003), 6/10
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone (2003), 5/10
Islands: Return to the Sea (2006), 7/10
Islands: Arm's Way (2008), 5/10
Islands: Vapours (2009), 5.5/10
Islands: A Sleep & a Forgetting (2012), 5/10
Islands: Ski Mask (2013), 4/10

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 Crazy Horse. 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), and 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, On Foreigner) 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 Nick Thorburn.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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