Horseshoe Tavern

Islands – Tickets – The Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, ON – March 15th, 2014

Islands

The Horseshoe Tavern Presents

Islands

Escondido

Sat, March 15, 2014

Doors: 9:00 pm

The Horseshoe Tavern

Toronto, ON

$12.50

This event is 19 and over

www.horseshoetavern.com

Advance Tickets available at: The Horseshoe front bar Rotate This and Soundscapes

Islands
Islands
On the first track from Islands' new album—the winsome, tropicalia-inflected "Wave Forms"—front man Nick Thorburn opens the record by singing, "I won't ride another wave and I won't write another word after today." In light of the rest of the album, the statement is both an admonition and a kind of warning. Ski Mask, the band's fifth album, is equal parts beauty and venom—an album that percolates with the kind of polymorphous pop and hooky, left-of-center rock songs that have long been the band's stock and trade. This time around, however, the artful indie-pop comes with a decidedly melancholy punch.

"This record is really about being angry," says Thorburn. "For better or worse, this record kind of sums up my experience thus far with being in a band. I feel like we're kind of at a crossroads and this record is kind of me just declaring forfeiture in some ways. Like the third act of a movie—just after it seems like all hope is lost, that's when the big breakthrough moment happens. For Islands, this is us waiting for the breakthrough moment."

If Ski Mask is both a personal statement about what it means to be in a band—as well as a statement about the mercurial nature of the music business itself—then it's certainly well earned. Thorburn, along with a rotating cast of bandmates, has been working under the moniker of Islands for nearly a decade. Formed in 2005 after the dissolution of Thorburn's previous (and much beloved) band The Unicorns, Islands quickly established themselves as one of the most erudite and forward-thinking pop bands ever to emerge from the Montreal rock scene. Over the course of four albums—2006's Return to the Sea (inspired by South African high life music), 2008's Arm's Way (a study in orchestral pop music and playful psych), 2009's Vapours (pulsing electro pop), and 2012's A Sleep & A Forgetting (soulful singer/songwriter fare)—Thorburn and co. showed off a remarkably chameleonic ability to bend a variety of different musical styles to their will. It's a talent that that historically made each Islands record it's own very singular listening experience. It's also a defining quality that made Islands difficult to pin down and nearly impossible to neatly classify (which, one expects, has always been the band's goal).

"This record is kind of a culmination of all the different things we've done over the years," says Thorburn. "It's basically a melting pot of all those sounds. So much of this record is about identity—specifically, the quest for finding out your own identity. Islands has always been kind of about that. In a lot of ways, we've always been kind of this homeless entity. We didn't really fit in specifically with any genre and we were really never part of any community. Islands has always been it's own thing…and I think the frustration of feeling like this very isolated band with no place to properly fit in made everything come to a head on this record. All of these feelings and ideas that have been bubbling up over the course of four previous albums finally came to the surface on this one This record is like a summation of Islands, everything we've ever done distilled into one record. It's basically an essential introduction to Islands—it's everything we've ever been about."

Ski Mask, while arguably the most sonically diverse album Islands has ever made (which is saying something), also plays out like Thorburn's personal frustrations writ large. Songs like "Death Drive" "Nil" and "Of Corpse" balance beautiful melodies against some of the darkest lyrical missives that Thorburn has ever written. When he sings, "Are you impressed with how depressed I've become?" it's hard not to register the sting. Still, Thorburn—along with current bandmates Evan Gordon, Geordie Gordon, and Luc Laurent—can't seem to help but make beautiful music, which serves as a nice counterbalance to the record's heavier concerns. Even with a back catalog already heavily loaded with gorgeous songs, tracks like "We'll do it so you don't have to" and "Here Here" rank among some of the most beautiful the band has ever recorded. The record might also be the band's darkest—featuring lyrics that flatly state that "Life's not a gas, it's a gas chamber" and, more pointedly, elsewhere there is a borrowed quote from Cornel West: "Featherless, born between urine and feces." As a result, Ski Mask offers beauty and bleakness in mostly equal measure. If the record proves to be Islands' swan song—a possibility Thorburn doesn't dispute—it certainly makes for a compelling one.

For Thorburn and his bandmates, the release of Ski Mask is something akin to throwing down the gauntlet. It's also the first (and one hopes, not the last) album to be released on the band's own Manqué Music label. Despite whatever reservations Thorburn has about navigating the murky waters of the music business, he remains genuflect about the band. "I feel like I'm still getting better at making songs and making records," he says. "It took a while for us to find ourselves as a band and so much of this record is about struggling and confusion, but I do think we've really come into our own with this record. It feels like the best representation of Islands that has probably ever existed. For the first time in a long while, I'm genuinely excited about what happens next."
Escondido
Escondido is Nashville, TN based artists Jessica Maros and Tyler James. Recorded live in a single day, their 10-song debut album was released Feb 26, 2013. Their sound is a washed out desert landscape steeped in American roots music. "We wanted it to be like Clint Eastwood playing pop songs at one of the honky-tonks downtown," James mused. "But we've been told it sounds like desert sex."

The pair met while James was recording their mutual friend at his home studio. "Jess was quietly strumming this song Rodeo Queen on the couch while everyone else was making drinks in the kitchen. I pushed record and added a little groove before folks got back in the room. Later that night we listened to it and both said 'You wanna make a record?'" They spent the next two months crafting the songs and bonding over a shared love of spaghetti westerns and 70's music. "We'd put on Ennio Morricone every morning," says Maros. "It's an easy process when you both love the same stuff."

The two gathered some musician friends and cut the record on October 17, 2011 at The Casino in Nashville. "We wanted to capture that initial instinct," says James. "The talent in this town allows you to set up in one room and let 'em do their thing." Musicians Evan Hutchings (drums) and Adam Keafer (bass) give the backbeat to Scotty Murray's washed out western-style electric guitar. Maros' seductive vocals bring to mind Mazzy Star as they float atop James' sparse guitar, trumpet, and keyboard work.

Escondido's songs range from the Tom Petty/Fleetwood Mac influenced pop numbers Cold October and Bad Without You, to the lovelorn country ballads Special Enough and Willow Tree. "The record was an outlet for me," says Maros. "Each song brings back where I was, what I drank when I was writing them. It was a dark time and this album got me through it." The band's heavy sentiment is balanced out by the playful twang of songs like Don't Love Me Too Much and the Keep Walkin'. "Music helps us forget the very conflict it grows out of," says James. "But my favorite songs embrace that dissonance."

The album marks a new chapter for both members. Maros, a Vancouver, British Columbia native, found success as a clothing designer after initially moving to Nashville with a record deal. Her jewelry has been worn by the likes of Prince and Lady Antebellum, her handmade dresses gracing the red carpet at the Oscars and Country Music Awards. James, a small-town Iowa native, has spent the last decade on the road as a solo artist and member of Los Angeles based Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. "We both wanted a change of pace," says Maros. "I wanted to focus on music again and Tyler wanted to spend more time in town making records." The result is the formation of Escondido, a band whose songs are a tale of love lost across the western sky.
Venue Information:
The Horseshoe Tavern
370 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON, M5V 2A2
http://www.horseshoetavern.com/