Canadian indie-pop band Islands released their fifth album, Ski Mask, in 2013, but then after an extensive tour seemed to get set on the backburner by frontman Nick Thorburn as he concentrated on a solo release as Nick Diamonds, composing the soundtrack of the Serial podcast, and the reunion of his earlier band The Unicorns around the tenth anniversary of their album Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? As it turns out, though, the ever-prolific Thorburn and his current band were still working behind the scenes, and this year saw the simultaneous release of two separate full-length Islands albums, Should I Remain Here, At Sea? and Taste. Since the dual release the band has been touring extensively – they were in DC at the Rock and Roll Hotel in May, but unfortunate scheduling conflicts left us sadly unable to make it to that show. When the band announced a second US leg of the tour for the fall, we hopped in the car to catch them at the Arden Gild Hall in Arden, DE, just outside of Wilmington.
The band opened the show with three tracks from the more electronic of the two new albums, Taste, playing “Charm Offensive,” “The Joke,” and “No Milk, No Sugar.” While Thorburn took center stage with his guitar, brothers Evan and Geordie Gordon flanked him both playing keyboards, emphasizing the synthpop elements of the new songs. After that, the band played “Fear,” another new song from the more rock-inflected Should I Remain Here, At Sea? Starting a show off with so many new songs is often a risky proposition, but after six months to get to know the albums, many in the audience knew them as well as the old.
For those who didn’t, their patience was rewarded by the band playing at least one song each from all of their previous albums, including “Where There’s a Will There’s a Whalebone” from 2006’s Return to the Sea (which they are celebrating with a 10th anniversary reissue being released this week), “Hallways” from 2012’s A Sleeping and a Forgetting, and “Creeper” from 2008’s Arm’s Way. The ever-energetic Thorburn jumped around making use of what room he had on the small stage, and all but drummer Adam Halferty swapped instruments from time to time. While the band returned several times to the new albums, the show overall was a good balance between this recent material and what have now become classics in their catalog. With the variety of sounds they explore, Islands remains one of the most interesting bands in indie rock today, a full decade into their career as a group.
Steady Holiday, the dream pop project of LA-based indie singer-songwriter Dre Babinski, opened the show. Babinski played solo, performing songs from her new album Under the Influence, released earlier this year.