Release Date: 2009-09-23
Vapours is a fitting title for the newest Islands record — unlike the heavily arranged, overwrought Arm’s Way, here Nick Thorburn leads a stripped-down lineup (including original Unicorn/Island Jamie Thompson) through a set of synth-pop that’s essentially weightless, almost to a fault. Thorburn’s neutral tenor and ironic delivery naturally keep listeners at a distance, and the mostly electronic beats make him sound even more emotionless — he even gets Auto-Tuned on the grating “Heartbeat.” (Insert Kanye West “I’m a let you finish” joke here.) It’s not Thorburn’s only shout-out to hip-hop: “Switch On” borrows the hook from Young Jeezy’s “Put On” for its chorus, with mixed results. In the win column: “No You Don’t” spins darkly clever lyrics over a solid groove, and album highlight “Vapours” shimmies against blaring horn riffs and will no doubt become a live staple. The rest of Vapours rolls by like a haze, only occasionally crystallizing into something memorable.