Pitchfork (Website) - "SHOULD I REMAIN HERE AT SEA? has the feel of friends blowing off steam the only way they know how, after working so hard on something outside of their comfort zone."
Personnel: Nick Thorburn (vocals, guitar, accordion, piano, organ); Adam Halferty (vocals, drums, percussion); Geordie Gordon (guitar, piano, organ); Evan Gordon (guitar, programming).
Audio Mixer: Rob Schnapf.
Recording information: Chateau, Los Angeles (06/26/2015-07/01/2015); Dream House, Toronto (06/26/2015-07/01/2015); Chateau, Los Angeles (10/16/2015-10/19/2015); Dream House, Toronto (10/16/2015-10/19/2015).
Illustrator: Nick Thorburn.
Four years on, the pains of Nick Thorburn's 2012 romantic heartbreak are still being felt. Returning to the indie rock sound associated with the band's early work, Islands' seventh album, Should I Remain Here at Sea?, was billed as the spiritual sequel to their 2006 debut, Return to the Sea. Released concurrently with -- and recorded in between studio sessions for -- their electronic-leaning sixth album, the beat-centric dance foray Taste, Should I Remain? returns the traditional band setup to the fore while retaining the sharp songcraft that made Taste such a joy. Again produced by vocalist Nick Thorburn and bassist Evan Gordon, the album nods to Islands' past but remains firmly planted in the time of its release, not only in production quality but also in focus. The hooks dig in deeper and the melodies hit harder, maturing their sound. Opening with "Back into It," Thorburn acknowledges, "Those songs we used to sing/We haven't sung them in so long/I'll sing one with you now." As the band launches into fuzzy harmony, the synth-oriented coolness of Taste is set aside in favor of pure rock vigor. "Fear" follows, including a great stretch of winding guitars and elastic bass. While Taste brought in dance-rock of the aughts, Should I Remain? enlists the energy from that era's garage rock revival, especially on the lackadaisical jam of "Fiction." Once the jangly first half draws to a close, Should I Remain? slows its pace to finish on a more resigned note. Starting with the spare "Christmas Tree," the album floats off into beautiful melancholia, especially on the sweeping "Sun Conure" and the pastoral "Right to Be Misbegotten," which is home to Gordon's sultry bass. The softness of the latter recalls a breezy seaside afternoon one might experience on the titular isle of follow-up track "Hawaii," a forlorn elegy that ends with "At Sea," which drifts the album off into the horizon with crestfallen tenderness. In the final lines, Thorburn grieves, "Oh, how I know now/Now I know how this water got so blue/Lo, how I long to hear you/To lay down near you/Back by your side." Paired with the closing sentiment on Taste -- "If it's right where it needs to be, then where did it go wrong?/Though I don't know, I know I loved you" -- it's hard not to connect the two works on an emotional level. Taken by itself or as part of a diptych, Should I Remain Here at Sea? is the crushed soul to the physical expression of Taste. ~ Neil Z. Yeung