Canadian indie rockers Islands have gone through a variety of sounds and band members in their time. Frontman Nick Thorburn is the only remaining original member of the band, so it makes sense that sonically, A Sleep & A Forgetting is a natural follow-up to his side project, Mister Heavenly. That supergroupâ€™s sound was defined as â€œdoom wop,â€ and as this is a breakup album, it follows a similar vein.
A glance through the song titles alone can give you an idea of the bleakness of this album. â€œNo Crying,â€ â€œCanâ€™t Feel My Face,â€ â€œLonely Loveâ€ and â€œDonâ€™t I Love Youâ€ really set the tone here, but credit is due to Thorburn. Rather than sounding self-indulgent or too depressing, the album is captivatingly raw and plaintive.
â€œNever Go Soloâ€ has a catchy piano line while the rest of the music is defiantly clattering. The lyrics are about the state of the band (â€œWhy does it feel so wrong?/Everyone was already goneâ€), but they also feel like a metaphor for a broken relationship. â€œHallwaysâ€ is stunning and upbeat with a bit of 50’s swing spirit, even as the lyrics deal with being lost.
The highlight for me is the mournful, acoustic â€œOh Maria,â€ with lyrics like, â€œShe said if every dayâ€™s a holiday, then today must be the day of the dead.â€ This feels like the most forthcoming song because of its musical simplicity and the opportunity for Thorburnâ€™s voice to really capture his emotion. Â His loss is our gain, as A Sleep & A Forgetting is a powerful album with much resonance.