Islands 5

The first time that I heard Islands, I knew that I was listening to something unique. The Montreal groups’ blend of electronics, guitars, and violins made for catchy, intricate songs on their debut, “Return to the Sea,” that had an instant appeal. Their subsequent albums, 2008’s “Arm’s Way” and this year’s “Vapours”, saw the band continue to expand their sound, and even though the results weren’t as vital or consistently good as “Return to the Sea,” they were great albums in their own right. The band proved with their performance at Mohawk that they put on a stellar live show, despite a few key missing elements to their sound.

After a nice set of sample heavy bedroom pop from Columbia, South Carolina’s Toro y Moi (Who, for some reason, was listed on the bill as Tot y Moi), former Be Your Own Pet vocalist Jemina Pearl took the stage with her new band in support of her first solo effort “Break It Up.” Her on stage presence is one of a woman possessed. The ways she moved exhibited pure energy, and it perfectly complemented the music. The band played fast and played loud, and the songs were full of hooks and a punk like intensity. Rest assured, Pearl’s live show and knack for writing memorable songs will ensure that she will do just fine post-Be Your Own Pet.

About thirty minutes after Pearl finished her set, three of the members of Islands appeared on stage, including guitarist Jamie Thompson, who left the band on good terms after “Return to the Sea” but returned this year for “Vapours.” About five minutes later, lead singer/guitarist Nick Thorburn made his appearance. Known for his showmanship, he didn’t fail to live up to his reputation, wearing a faux-diamond studded cape and wraparound sunglasses as he came on stage. Notably missing from the band’s lineup were violinists Sebastian and Alexander Chow.

Their absence was perhaps the biggest disappointment about Islands’ set. Part of what made many of the bands songs stand out were the Chow brothers violin arrangements. I missed them greatly as the band performed “The Arm,” which has some of the best use of violins I’ve ever heard from a rock band, and many of the little nuances in other songs were soring lacking as a result of their absence. The band simply didn’t sound as full as they could have.

That being said, however, Islands still sounded very good. The guitar playing was tight, and their use of no less than four keyboards provided many of the songs with their backbones, as processed drum beats and electronic sounds complimented Thorburn’s voice.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Islands’ set came from Thorburn’s on stage antics. He walked around the stage with his microphone, take pictures of himself with an audience member’s camera, and at one point he swang from the rafters on stage. If nothing else, it was entertaining to watch him do all these things while still singing every song note for note. He is a front man in every sense of the term.

The night was filled with many of the band’s greatest songs, such as “The Arm,” “Rough Gem,” and “Swans (Life After Death).” There was a lot of new material from “Vapours,” which marks Islands return to the sounds of “Return to the Sea” after their flirtations with grandeur on “Arm’s Way.” Many people in the audience were singing along, and the band played off of it well.

Despite the lineup omissions, Islands still managed to put on a very good show. It was entertaining, the songs were well executed, and the audience seemed to have a good time. Their unique sound was front and center, and the amount of care put into their show is a testament to how special of a band they are.

Toro y Moi:

Toro y Moi

Jemina Pearl:

Pearl 1

Pearl 3

Pearl 2 Better


Islands 1

Islands 2

Islands 3

Islands 4

Islands 6

Islands 7