In a world of musical conformity – nay, let’s be honest: atrocities even – clogging the media as dreadful people are bigged up as the next big thing by doing precisely nothing of worth, it’s always a joy to hear something new that is genuinely musically impressive. Vancouver band The Broken Islands come as a real breath of fresh air with their new album Wars, which collects together a selection of emotive, drivingly passionate songs that, in a sane world, would push them to the top of the musical tree.
As befitting a band of the modern age, there are influences a-plenty, some more immediate to spot than others, and the band smartly refuse to be pinned down to any one specific genre. depending on the moment, you might get elements of country, trip hop, goth flavourings or dance music – but none of those moments linger quite long enough for you to assume that the band is fully nailing its colours to any particular mast. But if you really need a point of reference: let’s just say that this band would not have been out of place closing an episode of Twin Peaks.
Opener No One Left to Kill sets the scene, with a pulsatic rhythmic intro that then reaches new heights as Rachelle Boily’s sweetly powerful vocals kick in. But this is just a taster, and things really become rather special with the next track, Crown, an epic and raw affair that makes you sit up and pay attention.
Combining electro sounds with shoegaze-flavoured, ethereal and very human melodies, topped by Boily’s lilting vocals, this is excellent stuff. El Dorado is a soaring and immediately catchy number, here presented in both English and French language versions across the LP. There’s an effortless pop sensibility at work here, one that doesn’t seen remotely forced or contrived, and it blends with the darkly-vibed rock elements that give the record a real edge. This is richly layered stuff that builds to a sense of drama without ever slipping over the edge.
Side one closer Drank Myself has a Mazzy Star style melancholic sway about it – the ideal tune for winding down happily drunken evenings perhaps, with the building crescendos and the curiously inspiring darkness being inspired.
Flipping sides on the red vinyl, Ça va passer is probably the album’s funkiest track, with a disco beat that evolves into wild psychedelic guitar solos and bounding rock ‘n’ roll grooves before sliding back into a loungey, blissed out feel. The longest track on the album (clocking in at almost eight minutes), Till I Sleep is also the most stripped back song here, kicking off with a wistful, hauntingly lovely minimalist style that feels pleasingly out of time, and so timeless as it steadily builds up to a euphoric finale that should have arena loads of people jumping up and down.
In a world full of awful people making awful music while others do awful things, we need to treasure the rare moments of pleasure. The Broken Islands are very much worth treasuring.