Islands - What Occurs


Islands Embody a Delusional Idiot on the Sharp-Edged New Single “Drown a Fish” – FLOOD

Islands is thrilled to announce the release of their highly anticipated new album, What Occurs, out June 21st, 2024. The tenth album in 19 years marks a significant departure, with the band embracing a live-off-the-floor approach that strips away extensive layers in favor of a raw, unmediated sound.

On “Drown A Fish,” Islands’ bandleader Nick Thorburn delves into the complexities of human interactions. Inspired by The Three O’Clock, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, and Kiwi Jr, the song embodies the essence of power pop, showcasing the band’s dynamic energy and musical prowess.

Thorburn says of the track, “In my opinion, a compelling story is always full of contradictions, and with ‘Drown A Fish’, I was looking to throw my hat in the ring of Pop Songs About Lovelorn Losers Who Couldn’t Buy a Clue to Save Their Life. I set out to write a song that laid bare a series of “ironic situations narrated by a delusional idiot”, because I think that’s more interesting than listening to an uplifting anthem about a flawless, self-empowered smartypants. We recorded the song as a quartet (the same lineup since 2013), by sitting together in one room—a tucked away studio on Vancouver Island—and playing the song live, in a single take. Like a rock and roll band should! We sat down in a circle, learned the song, and then immediately pressed record. And that’s what you hear.”

What Occurs was produced entirely by the band during the summer of 2023 and mixed by acclaimed producer Colin Stewart (New Pornographers, Destroyer) later that year. This marks Islands’ first Canadian-made record since their debut album, Return to the Sea, in 2006.

Reflecting on the creative process behind the album, Nick Thorburn shares, “For the first time, we went in cold… I brought in the music and we learned it sitting together in the room. And then we hit record. Decisions had to be made very quickly.” The result is a collection of songs that capture the raw spontaneity of a band that has honed their craft over a decade, with each track offering a unique perspective and narrative voice.

There’s the lovelorn loser (“Drown A Fish”), the spellbound lover (“Tangerine”), and the doom scroller bracing for armageddon time (“What Occurs”). There’s the terrified idiot who thinks arachnophobia refers to a fear of snakes (“Arachnophobia”), and the kind soul who tries to let you down gently (“Sally Doesn’t Work Here Anymore”). We ride alongside the art thief who very nearly gets away with it (“David Geffen’s Jackson Pollock”), and bear witness to a liberation movement unfolding in real time (“Talk Is Cheap”). The songs’ narrators are afraid, outraged, turned on, and hopelessly in love, running from—and towards life & death and everything in between.

Stylistically, the songs range from the apocalyptic folk of “On the Internet” —with Thorburn showcasing his rarely featured baritone—to the druggy, Jupiter-4 synthesizer dream pop of “Sally Doesn’t Work Here Anymore.” The album opener and title track “What Occurs”, acts as a bit of misdirection, with a Penguin Cafe-esque piano plunking notes like a sequencer as it slow-burns towards a mandolin solo of all things.

From there, the album takes a quick left turn, with the up-tempo power pop earworm of “Drown A Fish.” “Arachnophobia” showcases the ‘60s inspired, Stax-style playing that guitarist Geordie Gordon excels in and the relentless salvo of angry guitar stabs on “Talk Is Cheap” contrast nicely with the chugging ‘70s soft rock electric piano stomp of “Move Some More.”

Despite facing challenges such as Thorburn’s ghastly basketball injury just one week before recording, the band persevered, channeling their passion and energy into every note. Recorded entirely in Thorburn’s home province of British Columbia, the album pays homage to his Canadian roots while pushing the boundaries of Islands’ signature sound.

Though currently based in Los Angeles, Thorburn was born and raised on Vancouver Island, where his first band The Unicorns got their start. There’s a sense of returning, but paradoxically, for the first time, as this is Thorburn’s first record made on the island.

“With recording [this record] entirely in my home province of British Columbia, I wanted to tap into my Canadian forebears a little bit. It’s subtle, but I wanted to acknowledge the greats that came before me, like Destroyer, Teenage Head, Nash the Slash, Rufus Wainwright, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and of course Neil Young, Joni Mitchell & Leonard Cohen.