Local Wire

Islands

Please excuse Nick Diamonds and Jaime T'ambour while they resurrect themselves. If you'll recall, they bought the proverbial farm at the conclusion of The Unicorns' landmark Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, a sort of fey, goofy, indie rock Final Exit. The Canadian pair have since jettisoned Alden Ginger, taken up with a slew of Arcade Fire-associated luminaries and rapper friends, and reemerged as Islands. Opener "Swans" simultaneously acknowledges glories past while plotting a lusher future; it's a temptingly ornate, piano-trimmed pop masterpiece that quotes Crazy Horse and finds Diamonds stranded on the same isle where The Unicorns expired. Death fixations and Tinker Toy, tiptoeing keyboards are usurped or swamped here by grander, sometimes orchestral ambitions, even as Diamonds' decidedly twisted sense of humor and tongue-in-cheek psychosis remain. Thus Return to the Sea is one batty, insidious daydream after another -- the fiddles-'n'-pedal-steel, string-section-conjoined giddyap of "Volcanoes" collapsing into an unhinged Pavement rout; "Humans," a dark show tune about disaster survivors driven to cannibalism; "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby," an unbearably chipper, Violent Femmes-style ditty wherein the narrator can't figure out why his deceased, desiccated girlfriend is so darned skinny. Who knew -- Biggie Smalls and Tupac aside -- that life after death could be so fulfilling?
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Cummings