Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: Manqué Music
Will Nick Thorburn ever shake off the shadow of The Unicorns? Despite his adventurous and successful career in the 13 years since Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? was released, the ceaseless clamor for an extension of the band's 2014 mini-reunion continues to exist as an enormous, unrelenting elephant in the room. .
Should I Remain Here At Sea? is one of two distinct, stand-alone Islands records being released simultaneously. Though it's technically the band's seventh full-length album, SIRHAS is being touted as a "spiritual sequel" to their 2006 debut, Return to the Sea. The album is split pretty evenly into two halves; the first five tracks are raucous, poppy and uptempo, while the second half slows things down for some disarmingly lovely (and sad) songs.
Nick Thorburn’s music has been downloaded more than 80 million times in the past two years, but a majority of those people will likely always associate his work with a girl who can’t pronounce the phrase “MailChimp.” In a perfect world, the two albums his band Islands have simultaneously released would change that. Taste and Should I Remain Here at Sea? are Islands’ first releases since 2013. In the intervening years, Thorburn busied himself by composing for the podcast, Serial, including the tinny minor-chord piano theme that starts each episode.
As someone who was exposed to his work post-Unicorns, I’ve always appreciated Nick Thorburn as an earnest and un-precious artist. His participation in soundtracking the podcast Serial last year cemented his position as a man of the people, and this latest pair of albums should bear along that seal. Both releases, Taste and Should I Remain Here at Sea, are both refreshingly transparent documents.
Four years on, the pains of Nick Thorburn's 2012 romantic heartbreak are still being felt. Returning to the indie rock sound associated with the band's early work, Islands' seventh album, Should I Remain Here at Sea?, was billed as the spiritual sequel to their 2006 debut, Return to the Sea. Released concurrently with -- and recorded in between studio sessions for -- their electronic-leaning sixth album, the beat-centric dance foray Taste, Should I Remain? returns the traditional band setup to the fore while retaining the sharp songcraft that made Taste such a joy.
The risk of releasing two albums simultaneously, though declared from the get-go as separate entities, is massive. Many times the result feels bloated, an indulgent result of the artist’s unwillingness to edit, while other times one title overshadows the other in potency. None of these pitfalls have stopped Nick Thorburn, who as the main force behind Islands has created two albums that work on their own but together mend the fractured halves of a broken heart.
So maybe Nick Thorburn just writes a lot of music. Sure, I’ll bite. In five years he’s penned two seasons of soundtracks for NPR show Serial, put out two albums for his band Islands, joined the supergroup Mister Heavenly, and dropped two solo albums under his moniker Nick Diamonds. But quantity doesn’t always point to quality.
Nick Diamonds' Islands have maintained a healthy balance of hooks and smarts over four albums. 2006's Return to the Sea, secretly the finest album of that year, was a triumphant tale rampant with real-life experience and creative worlds of human interaction. The list of contributors to that record is astounding to this day. Ten years on, many of the orchestral elements of Islands' past are now gone.