There are two defining characteristics of Nick Thorburn’s work of which you need to be aware. For one, he is a tunesmith of uncommon finesse; his melodies are so simple it’s a constant amazement that they weren’t written decades earlier, and so addicting that his work is instantly memorable. And two, he is unusually obsessed with death – his songs tend to marry cheerful pop melodies to lyrics about human mortality, giving his music an oddly sinister mix of magic and morbidity that one might otherwise associate with a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
Thorburn has followed his twin impulses to make some of the weirdest, most wonderful pop music of this young century — and for whatever reason, he seems to do his best work under the Islands moniker. (He’s also recorded as The Unicorns and Human Highway). The first Islands LP was the widescreen pop classic Return to the Sea, an album that scaled melodic heights and took surreal detours into hip-hop and calypso. After that, Thorburn stretched his two grand obsessions to their breaking point for the winding, death-haunted guitar-rock epic, Arm’s Way. The latter was an album of thrilling ambition, but tragically, it fell on deaf ears; most critics were so put off by its excess that they failed to recognize its imagination and its musicality, leaving it a grossly underappreciated gem.
Read the rest at Stereo Subversion.