"Islands are forever!" proclaims the band's official website, though it's less than accurate when it comes to the band's line-up. Since their 2005 debut, Islands have undergone significant overhauls, which included the departure of co-founder J'amie Tambeur from the group and the music industry in general. Regardless, lead singer Nick Thornburn managed to keep the band together, and its second album, Arm's Way, represents a significant departure from the poppy, Graceland-inspired Return to the Sea. Gone are the bouncy beats that backed Thornburn's lyrics. Gone are the steal drums and Caribbean-themed instrumentation.
In their place, Thornburn and Co. have created a decidedly darker, harder album, one that tip-toes the line between classic rock 'n' roll and experimental prog rock, one more clearly influenced by T. Rex than Paul Simon. Thornburn isn't shy about publicly spilling the depth of hurt he experienced when Tambeur abruptly left the band, and does just that on the aptly titled "J'aime Vous Voir Quitter." Elsewhere, "Creeper," the album's first single, takes on the volatile relationship between Islands and their label. "Creeper" also most closely resembles the band's sound on Return to the Sea with its dancy, indie-pop sound, complete with drum machine.
Those willing to wrap their heads around this album's tracks, particularly its eight-minute standout "To a Bond" and its 11-minute closer "Vertigo," will find a rough gem. As is typical of Thornburn's music, Arm's Way must be approached with an open mind. The man refuses to be typecast musically, and man, should we be grateful for that.