Photos by Brigitte B. Zabak
Islands, a sextet of indie rockers from Montreal, Quebec, didn’t always have it quite so together. The last couple of years have been an unstable buoy upon which lead singer/songwriter Nicholas Thorburn floated unsteadily, waiting for people with the right combination of passion, dexterity and vision.
But now Thorburn has found his brethren in song, and the product of their union is a sound rich in texture and volume. This year's Arm’s Way, their sophomore release, is full of songs layered with macabre instrumentation and provocative lyrics that gain greater depth and momentum in a live setting like the large, enthusiastic crowd last night at Walter’s. If anyone ever wonders where American fans of the band reside, apparently a large number of them are right here in Houston. Who knew?
The night started off with the high-energy antics of Dublin-based Crayonsmith. Adorned in a chicken costume, lead singer Ciaran Smith belted out solid indie-pop tunes a little reminiscent of The Flaming Lips. It was the right blend of keyboards to guitar, but what really made their performance was how engaging and committed Crayonsmith was to the audience.
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L.A.-based hip hop artist AWOL One came out next. Although a couple of moments during his performance seemed promising, the general consensus seemed to be that he left much to be desired - the music came off more Linkin Park than Biz Markie.
Eight strings, one beer: bassists Lee Walker (Basses Loaded) and Melissa Lonchambon (Sharks & Sailors).
After making the audience steep in the room’s unbearable heat, Islands took to the stage and played with a level of intensity that remained consistent from beginning to end. Every song was a new experience and the audience never knew what to expect. No instrument was off limits - everything from a bass clarinet to a heavy-linked chain was used to create beautifully eerie, complex songs.
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Islands’ ability to invoke an array of different images and emotions in one song is astounding. Every note was polished and succinct, and the instrumentation combined together in such a way that allowed each to be separate and distinct but still part of the communal sound.
Everything about this show was spot on. Well, almost everything. But it was an inspirational fun indie-rock experience, which aren’t always as abundant as some would like around these parts. - Brigitte B. Zabak