Picture this: it’s early May, the night is warm, ISLAND have just left the stage, following one of their biggest gigs to date. The atmosphere is still electric, when the announcement comes and lights the screen of my phone: the four-piece have just signed their new deal with the American label FrenchKiss Records, and their route to a debut album is now well defined.
I remember that night as it was yesterday. It’s sweet, when you get to know about a band, you welcome their first EPs (we talked about ‘A Place You Like’ here) and you think “Wow, I want more of this!”. About one year later, the debut LP ‘Feels Like Air’ finally sees the light, and let me be as straight forward as I can be: this much-anticipated record is – to me – somehow special.
It’s the story of a band who got together with the aim to explore the intricate vibes of modernly conceived alt-rock. The portrait of four friends who are not afraid to talk about the most intimate emotions and translate them to delicate guitar riffs that reverberate and fill the space.
Rollo Doherty’s vocals stand out since the very first chapter, ‘Ride’, and the climax is soon reached with the painfully beautiful ‘The Day I Day’. “Tell my baby, “I’ve got to go” / No I won’t say, “Goodbye” / Tell my mother, “I love her so” / ‘Cause this is the day I die”, sing ISLAND, whilst an infectious progression of guitar grows slowly. ‘Feels Like Air’ unfolds step by step, showcasing the elements of a long journey that inspired its composition. Emotionally intense chapters – ‘Something Perfect’ is astonishing in its simple structure – alternate to dreamy ballads, such as ‘Horizon’, which reminds me of one of those majestic U2 tunes from the late ’80s.
Guitarist Jack Raeder recently stated about the album: “The whole thing is written from the point of view of a passenger on a long, long drive. Sometimes they’re daydreaming, sometimes they’re asleep, but it’s the differing view you get on a long journey and how that shapes the way you look at things.” It’s a journey that encompasses euphoria (‘We Can Go Anywhere’), as well as more introspective moments (‘God Forgive’ or the title-track ‘Feels Like Air’), and ends with a ballad that showcases once more Doherty’s incredible vocal skills. The stripped down ‘Lilyflower’ draws the curtain on an emotional storm that is this ISLAND’s first effort.
Yes, the four-piece have started drifting to a slightly different direction, with this full-length. Or, to be more accurate, they might have left part of of their bravado on a side, to craft an album that feels like it was built in a safe way, with attention to details yet less room for exercises of style. Nonetheless, ‘Feels Like Air’ depicts the hallmarks of a band who are standing out and making a name for themselves. And they are doing so with honest music that unfolds through multi-layered arrangements and emotional electricity.
FrenchKiss | 2018
Tracklist & Stream