Review: ISLAND's LP Debut "Feels Like Air"

After releasing a couple EPs and singles, ISLAND have made their entrance in the LP world with their brilliant debut Feels Like Air

ISLAND is a band from London, and the four members have been making music together since high school. This is clear in their music; their chemistry and friendship is audible throughout. British influences are present in the ethereal and dreamy sounds of Feels Like Air that, song by song, build upon the guitar riff the first song, "Ride", opens with. "Ride" is a strong start for a debut, a very bold choice that could have killed all their chances, but instead, it powered and lent energy to the following songs.

Lead singer Rollo Doherty's scratching voice is prominent throughout the entire work, and I have to admit that without his peculiar style of singing this album would be absolutely nothing. His voice sounds far away but at the same time almost too close, it is threatening yet comforting, it is an ocean of musical shades, and I would be very happy to drown in it.

I believe that lyrics are a fundamental part of music; they have to say something, actually communicate with the listeners. Feels Like Air contains a cohesion of dark, meaningful, yet motivating words that form a puzzle that probably resembles the musicians' minds, for it is a very personal and youthful record. The themes are numerous, but they all meet at the end of the album with a delicate acoustic song titled "Lilyflower" which is a proper hymn to the challenge of life:
"I'll flicker and die / you will shimmer into sparks / 'cause you gave me my heart."
Life is the pulsing core of this record. The 11 songs delineate a very vivid picture of what ISLAND's collective soul really is, taking us on a journey made up of the echoes of electric guitars very similar to that of The 1975 or even of U2. The transitions from one song to another prove the band's maturity and that this is a well thought-out album, even in its simplicity.

A song that for sure stands out is "Try", likely about a rough breakup so rough that the singer will "try to make it alright",  and that he "found a new way to die" in his lover's "tear stained eyes". Jack Raeder's guitar in this tune is witty but melancholic, strengthened by Toby Richards' explosive and hypnotic drums. 

The best song off the album, the one that makes it worth a listen, is for sure "We Can Go Anywhere", an ethereal and heartbreaking track which starts with Doherty's smooth and strong vocals. I believe this song describes ISLAND's genre at its best: a crescendo of feelings and sounds that form a tornado that sweeps you off your feet and takes you anywhere. The chorus is very tenacious, juxtaposed to the comforting verses that almost seem written for a lullaby. The electric guitar comes in the chorus and grows the force of this song even more, and it abruptly stops during a moment that calms the waters down just for about 20 seconds before breaking your heart completely:
"I thought the colours would call in the rain..."
In the song that bears the album's name, "Feels Like Air", the highest peak is reached with one of the most pure and delicate beginnings I've ever had the pleasure to experience, "I'll touch your skin / say goodnight and turn in / lights flicker ice cold / beneath the clouds we’ll go", followed by a painful yet extremely beautiful chorus accompanied by rocking rhythm and guitar sounds: "Count the freckles on your face / and remember all your little flaws that make my day." After Doherty's cracking voice while singing "And it feels like air", followed by another affectionate chorus that could be sung to a lover, a daughter, or a mother, the guitars literally explode in a symphony of bliss and waves, reminiscing R&B paradigms, but then burst out in a cry made up of high notes and the repetition of the same 3 chords. 

ISLAND's credibility was on the plate since their prior EPs were so well done. Many had great expectations for this debut - and it has not disappointed. At the end of the day, Feels Like Air is a bold statement of where ISLAND stands and most importantly what they stand for. The music industry is not an easy field, but this kind of record is what makes the fall less heavy, like a cotton swab that deadens the pains when your feet hit the ground. If this is what we should expect from ISLAND, then please, make the world feel like air again soon.


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