On Wednesday night at the Hawthorne Theater, Islands frontman Nick Thorburn took to the stage wearing a rhinestone covered cape and plastic not-quite-sunglasses. Given the shimmering, flowing music on Islands' latest record Vapours
, the garb seemed appropriate. After a few songs, though, the cape and shades were gone. This was a sensible fashion decision too. Putting aside the glitter of production and arrangements of Thorburn's music, and the hype and expectations of the songwriter's post-Unicorns work, there remains the dressed-down, stone-cold fact that Thorburn's songs are among the best crafted of the decade.
That declaration is backed up by Vapours
, Islands' third disc. A gorgeous collection of songs, Vapours
features instantly danceable tracks like album and set opener "Switched On," lead single "No You Don't" (one of my favorite tracks of the year) and the Elvis Costello stomp of the title track. There's quieter moments, too, like the near ballad "On Foreigner," which sounds something akin to '50s crooner Dion doing Rod Stewart's "Young Turks" at a karaoke bar on Tatooine. Running through it all are the hallmarks of Thorburn's songcraft—non sequitur poetry about love, death, and paranoia over lots of squeegy keyboards, shiny guitar, and shifting, pulsating, rhythms from drummer Jamie Thompson. There are streaks of danger in Islands' music, but there's warmth too. To dance to Islands is to dance at the apocalypse. Thorburn himself even got in the action Wednesday night, taking to the dance floor of the Hawthorne during the first parts of the band's "Vapours" performance.
Thorburn's dance floor cameo was a friendly gesture in an evening rich with moments that strengthened the bond between performer and audience. There was lots of dancing in the audience but, aside from the occasional shouted request, the loyal and attentive crowd was pin drop quiet between songs. By the end of the show, Thorburn repeatedly remarked how sweet we were and teased that he would call all our mothers and tell them how well we'd all turned out. Judging from Wednesday nights performance, Nick Thorburn's turning out pretty well, too.
Photo not from the show, but from a magic land called the Internet.