Review Summary: And could you really be the one to show me that it’s right?
As we age and mature as people, it’s really easy to lose the almost childlike appreciation of beauty that we possess in favor of an easily digestible slice of cynicism. I’m not an exception to that rule. And maybe that’s why this album works so well. Island Fire has this painfully emotive way of tugging at all the heart strings you keep forgetting that you have, all while wrapped in a beautiful layer of atmospheric serenity. It brings back all those past relationships that were buried under years of mediocre teenage pop-punk, all those friends who’ve moved on with their lives. It’s a desire to come out of your ageing shell in the hopes that maybe, just maybe you can find something beautiful.
It’s almost miraculous that Island Fire is so emotive and sonically interesting considering that it’s primarily the brainchild of one man, Indianapolis native Nathan Kane. The work for the album was done entirely in his own studio and as such the production is crisp and entirely fitting into his vision. He wears his influences on his sleeve and with his choices of vocal direction and guitar work, there are major From Indian Lakes vibes present. This can only be a good thing as From Indian Lakes is another brainchild project and one that I consider to be essentially the pinnacle of all post-hardcore influenced emo indie/alt rock. There is not a single dull moment on this album as even the parts without vocals feel melodic and introspective as they gradually build up like roaring waves slamming the beach in a midsummer's storm.
Whale Bones understand one thing very certainly. They understand the perfect contrasting balance between spiraling, angsty emotion, and the peaceful waves of calm and natural exploration. That isn’t to say though that this album doesn’t have its peaks as “And could you really be the one to show me that it’s right？” pounds through my ears after a perfect buildup in Inaction, or the climatic build in Once Bitten that ends with the crushing “You can say anything, but would you listen to me at all？” It’s not all melodic build ups and roaring emotive finishes as Twice Shy plays around with being an entirely instrumental progressive rock track that feels like something out of Cloudkicker, or Backyard which strips away most of the aggression initially as it starts as an acoustic track before launching into a beautiful serenade around the midpoint. The final tracks return to the pounding emotion, especially with The Warmth which ends as a recap of nearly everything great about this album carefully strewn together under Kane’s vulnerable and emotive vocals. Island Fire isn’t perfect though, for as touching and as beautiful as it is, many of the tracks feel quite uniform. They all sound amazing, but many sound quite alike stylistically as they employ the same build up towards a high tension ending. It works individually, but there definitely could have been more done to add some variety.
There isn’t much to say about the production as Kane had the opportunity to direct it all by himself. The guitars are clear and precise as they create a dreamy and booming atmosphere of almost ethereal beauty. The drums are just as prominent and contribute to adding such high levels of intensity when it’s needed.
Island Fire is a phenomenal debut LP and it showcases just how talented the band is. As someone who listens to a lot of music, it’s always rare and special when an album can open me up like a cadaver and play with my heart strings. That’s what so powerful. It’s their ability to dig into you and instill this will - this will to experience life, to go out and try to find the beauty. Even if it hurts, there has to be something worth living towards, some overlooked beauty to grasp. Otherwise, what’s the point？