Review Summary: Arm's Way is an adventurous, yet creative journey, from start to finish.
Unfamiliar with any previous work of the indie-rock band, Islands, I can't really put my finger on the reason I decided to embark upon their newest album, Arm's Way
. Perhaps the initial recommendations of sounding like Broken Social Scene, The Arcade Fire, and Malajube provided a reason to listen. After all, the thought of a band mingling Broken Social Scene's indie rock, boarding post-rock sentiments, style with the elaborate and meticulous Arcade Fire is simply a blessing in disguise. But it didnâ€™t take many listens to figure Islands were in a league of the own; a league that is dark, mysterious, adventurous, brilliant, and beyond all, epic.
So calmly and serenely the sixty-eight minute Arm's Way
begins; fluttering vocals, violins, and guitars prance in different directions until they ultimately bind together. The momentum continues to crescendo and build until a barbaric screech fully releases "The Arm" into a simple, yet defining riff. From that point, it was hard to turn back. It is the confident indie-rock nature of "The Arm" that makes a bold statement for the entire album. Lyrically, Nick Thorburn does a pretty good job with an overall smart aleck tone, like in "The Arm," when he sings, 'In a lifeless carcass/ in a badass car crash/ hopefully you wake up soon, hopefully you do/ oooohhh I want you to/ that's why the arm came for you,' hinting 'the arm' is something in a higher place. Beyond "The Arm," Islands go with a more traditional indie-rock approach with catchy tracks like "Pieces of You" and "Creeper," but also containing modestly upbeat indie-pop tracks like, "J'aime Vous Voir Quitter." The voraciously paced "Abominable Snow" begins with a before-and-after quip singing, 'rack of lamb of God,' and from there, sounds vary with thrashing violins and changes into a slow-danced affair led by tremolo guitars and keyboards. But this is only the beginning of the almost bipolar songwriting.
Within Arm's Way
there are so many ambitious ideas and riffs floating around that eventually find, and sometimes miss, their nook or cranny. "Life In Jail" is generally a ballad-esque track that simmers in a rather slow pace; that is until two guitars come along and decide to take "Life In Jail" in a completely different direction with a more upbeat/swing style. With this comes a slight downfall of Arm's Way
showing how creative ideas do not exactly always mesh cleanly within a song. Where it does work is with the song is "In The Rushes," which releases a sort of hidden progressive rock style that grows with frantic violins (plucking included) and smooth bass riffs that fill the overall intensity and emotion released by Islands. It is the kind of emotion that shows how passionate they were writing Arm's Way
The last two tracks provide a summation of the record and Islands latest style. "I Feel Evil Creeping In" sets up the album's lengthy closer with a bass clarinet providing a dark underlying to a song that is catchier than it leads on. Throughout Arm's Way
, it has been a constant slew of epics songs with catchy indie-pop songs in between and there really couldn't be a more fitting ending than, "Vertigo (If It's a Crime)." The eleven-minute gem epitomizes the elements of the entire album among cozy and soothing riffs, beautiful vocal hooks, orchestra-like production of instruments, progressive indie-rock riffs, and an overall creative and daring song. It is truly captivating to hear from start to finish such a complete song that envelope a beautiful build upon not only the song, but the entire album.
Without much prior knowledge of Islands, it was hard to judge if they have progressed from their last album Return To The Sea
. Regardless, it is apparent they have built a solid foundation for their next albums. Arm's Way
intentions are fantastic, but the moves do not always pull through. Besides an overall length issue, sometimes Islands have too
many ideas that create awkward phrasings. It is hard to fault a band that made something so brilliantly sound in the end. Islands produced an adventurous and daring record with Arm's Way
, an adventure many bands are afraid to attempt. And I can't blame them for that.