Anti

On Vapours their third album in roughly as many years Islands throws out yet another curveball. Given that the melodic quasi-African strains of 2006’s Return to the Sea somehow morphed into the aggressive violin-driven progressive pop that filled every corner of last year’s Arm’s Way the sharp turn hardly comes as a surprise. This time around Nick Diamonds and company deliver a pleasant blend of sopping-wet synths groovy beats and straightforward but addictive guitar flourishes.

On songs like “On Foreigner” or the excellent title track the album gives the full-band treatment to the simple pop formula Diamonds mastered with Jim Guthrie on last year’s Human Highway project. Elsewhere tracks like “Tender Torture” and “Shining” go full-on electro with drum machines echo-laden guitar leads and those oh-so-prominent analogue synthesizers.

All told Vapours adds another piece to the Islands puzzle. It may not be their catchiest or most ambitious work and even veteran fans will need a few full listens to move beyond initial apprehensions but it does have plenty of strong material. Perhaps most importantly it preserves the band’s pervasive sense of lighthearted musical playfulness: “Heartbeat” is nothing but a failed AutoTune experiment until you notice that the ghastly technology is being used to twin Nick’s voice into a major third as he sings: “Cued up the major third/ but you don’t know you just take my word.” Awesome.

Tags: