Thursday, April 19, 2012

Album Review: Islands - A Sleep and A Forgetting

Album Rating: B+
I always thought one of the more underrated songs in the indie rock band Girls catalog was the opening song on their debut Album "Lust for Life." I always liked "Lust For Life" because to me it went beyond being the simple "my heart is broken" song, it was a song about having a broken will. With a broken heart you can still go out and get drunk, you can still have sex with the first walking thing you see, and you can still move on eventually. But a broken will means you don't have the will to fight your demons anymore, all you can do is dream about having the perfect "boyfriend" or "sun tan," all you can do is think about making things right. A broken heart means someone just has to fight to "pick up the pieces," but to me a broken will means someone ends up lusting after something as simple as the idea of having a happy life, a perfect boyfriend, or anything else that you would normally just "go out and get." The idea of lusting after something as simple as life is beyond heartbreaking, it is borderline inconceivable.

When I listen to Islands A Sleep and A Forgetting though it feels like something that is more than the usual "break-up" album. Even on the most depressing "break up" albums like Frightened Rabbit's classic The Midnight Organ Fight have one sign or lyric of hope ("I think I'll save suicide for another year!) But A Sleep and A Forgetting shows us someone who wants to move on but he can't, someone who is so heartbroken that he is motionless, someone who is so distraught that he "can't move his face," and someone who still wakes up after dreaming of her all night. A Sleep and Forgetting is a record that is beyond heartbreaking and it is a record that is so sad that it is doesn't even have a "Lust for Life." It is a record that has a "lust for dreaming": Thorburn is dreaming of having someone dreaming of him and he is dreaming of a place where he can escape what has been done to him. But he knows that his reality is so harsh that he can only "dream" of these things so he cannot even have a "lust for life." Thorburn wants to be A Sleep and A Forgetting what has been done to him. And he is so broken that his dreams are the only place where that can happen.

Now that I have told you how incredibly deep, personal, and beyond heartbreaking this album is, you probably think that A Sleep and Forgetting is one of the most "unlistenable" albums of 2012 so far. You probably think that every song is 4 minutes of moaning, that the entire album is just Thorburn running down his list of #firstworldproblems, and you probably think the album is so depressing that after listen to it that you would be "caught dead" after listening to it. But the magnificent thing about A Sleep and Forgetting is that even though it is deep, personal, and heartbreaking it is still beautiful, open, and unforgettable. Kind of like a meaningful dream.

The first reason Thorburn's "lust for dreams" album works is because just how good the instrumentation and the atmospheric nature of A Sleep and Forgetting is. The album is never boring, never overly depressing, and has an awesome flow. No song on this album sounds the same: "In A Dream" has a laid back guitar riff and sounds like something you could dance to on the beach, "This Is Not A Song" is a slower version of "In A Dream" and has even more of a jazzy feel to it, "Never Go Solo" is a combination of all of those "groovy" influences with a little more punk, "No Crying" has the same "beachy" feel of "In A Dream" and is one of the albums first "ballads," "Hallways" is the most radio friendly song on the album, "Can't Feel My Face" is one of the fastest songs on the album and is carried by a almost "frightening" guitar riff, "Lonely Love" sounds like a Jeff Buckley b side, "Oh Maria" is the most beautiful song on the album, "Cold Again" actually sounds like a slower version of a Girls song, "Don't I Love You" is a combination of all of the bands "modern" influences yet it sounds like it could have been on the radio in the seductive Seventies (did anyone call it that?) and "Same Thing" has the most original sound of any of the songs on the album. So even though every song revolves around the theme of "being beyond heartbroken," Thorburn is still able to make an album where every song sounds totally different and has a completely original sound.

Another thing that makes this album incredible even though it is a "lusting for dreams" albums is that it has an unbelievable flow from track to track. Most albums that have a "great flow" just have a flow where one riff or one sound carries over from one track to another. But the flow A Sleep and A Forgetting creates is totally different. It is a flow that is aided by the theme of the album and not necessarily the instrumentation: every song on this album feels like one of Thorburn's diary entries and we are just flipping to the next day in that entry. Since all of the songs revolve around one central theme of "crippling heartbreak" we are able to get an unbelievable lyrical flow from track to track. This kind of lyrical flow makes the album a lot more relateable, makes you hang on just about every line, and it gives the album the feeling of someone singing what they wrote in their diary for 37 minutes and 43 seconds. A Sleep and A Forgetting has an unforgettable flow because it is a flow based on words and wisdom instead of being based solely on instrumentation. A Sleep and Forgetting flows like a diary: it is a flow based on emotion, daily experiences, and the question over whether she likes your or not. Even though the albums "conceptual themes" may be nothing short of cliche, the albums flow is nothing short of unbelievable.

The last thing that makes A Sleep and A Forgetting a unforgettable "lusting for dreams" album is just how damn good the songs on here are. "Oh Maria" is one of my favorite tracks of 2012 so far and it might just be the most beautiful, "Don't I Love You?" will be stuck in your head for the next month or so, "Same Thing" is the perfect summarization of every thing the album stands for, "Lonely Love" is Jeff Buckley on steroids, "Can't Feel My Face" is the song that you will be dancing to for the next few weeks, and "Hallways" is the most radio friendly song but it is still damn good. The last reason Thorburn's "lusting for dreams" album works is because the album has seven to eight really good songs.

On A Sleep and Forgetting we are not just listening to another "break up" album. We are listen to an album by a man who has literally had his "will broken" in a relationship. But even though Thorburn's will is broken he still makes music that flows together beautifully, he still makes an album with seven to eight great songs, and he is still able to show off how good of a musician he is. Thorburn might be "lusting after dreams" about getting away and starting a new life, but this is an album that is so beautiful that it will be the soundtrack to your dreams and an album that you will be unable to get away from for weeks. Just like thoughts about an old lover.....


1. In A Dream It Seemed Real
2. This Is Not A Song
3. Never Go Solo
4. No Crying
5. Hallways
6. Can't Feel My Face
7. Lonely Love
8. Oh Maria
9. Cold Again
10. Don't I Love You
11. Same Thing

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