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Islands at Théâtre Plaza

Posted by Christine / November 13, 2009

20091113islands.jpg On Friday, November 6th, Montreal's own Islands appeared on Théâtre Plaza's stage dressed head-to-toe in white, bejeweled space-inspired garb, complete with matching white, ethereal glitter makeup -something Ziggy Stardust himself would have cocked his hip at in approval.

Islands began their ample, 16-song set with "Switched On," the starter track off their newest album Vapours, released in September of this year. In cohesion with the band's wardrobe choice, this track's breezy, synth-heavy vibe set the tone for the rest of the show, launching listeners into a sunny, islandesque vacation -if that vacation were to take place, say, on Battlestar Galactica's Cloud Nine vessel.

Most of Island's set consisted of songs from their latest album, such as "No You Don't," "Disarming the Car Bomb," "Heartbeat," "On Foreigner," and "Everything is Under Control."

Vapours, their third album to date, sees the return of drummer Jamie Thompson, who departed in 2006, following the release of Island's first album Return to the Sea. In the spirit of that renewed partnership, Vapours is an upbeat, eccentric, mixed bag of tricks and treats, from Nick Thorburn's, swooning, subtly mechanized vocals to wavy, synthesizer sequences, sometimes reminiscent of the theremin. (On an unrelated note, have I told you how much you need to youtube "Theremin Killed The Radio Star (Take Two)?" Yeah, you need to.)

Title track "Vapours" embodies much of what I'm talking about here. It's indie rock bravado at its very best, with choppy guitars and bold drumbeats that give way to a dreamy chorus, punctuated by brassy horns. Big, big, big.

"Tender Torture" is a space-age melody, complete with slower, marching sequences accompanied by Thorburn's creamy "ooohs," which are eventually blasted away by a jolly, whirling synthesizer solo. During this song, Geordie Gordon, sporting a broad- shouldered shirt with silver accents, swept his hands across his keys in a move that would usually seem clichéd and cheesy, however, it succeeded in fitting in perfectly with the lighthearted, intergalactic love story being told: "Under the moonglow/ I was a windblown, cast-down, carved out watermelon... Kicked open a coconut/ Could've shared it with anyone/ But I wanted to share it with you."

Islands also performed songs off their two previous albums, Arm's Way and Return to the Sea. These songs included, "Creeper," "The Arm," "Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone." They reserved "Swans (Life After Death)" as their closing number, performed as the second song during their encore.

Overall, Islands is a band that has a bold, live impact, with its outrageous costumes and Thorburn's occasional slinking into the audience (to the shrieking delight of some female fans around me). However, Thorburn kept the stage banter relatively sparse with a few shy comments here and there: "This is like a hometown show, except none of us live here anymore. But we're glad to be here."

South Carolina's Toro Y Moi opened the show with a dancey, electric set with a hip-hop twist. The band is comprised of one person, Chaz Bundick, who juggled a Mac laptop, a microphone and keys, all with a quiet, personable charm. He's the kind of guy who'd humbly, yet repeatedly, whip you at a video game (say, vintage Mortal Kombat) then buy you a beer out of good-naturedness.

Before Toro Y Moi, Gregory Pepper & His Problems performed a medley of pop, electro, and hip-hop. Displaying a unique, creative flourish, Guelph native, Pepper's melodramatic, albeit tongue-in-cheek lyrics range from suicide to building a boat.

Photo from Island's Myspace page.

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