TIME Canada Arts: Pick of the Week

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Don't be fooled. Beneath its occasional indie-rock frills, Return To The Sea by Islands is a perfectly accessible and terrifically catchy album, full of the kind of upbeat pop songs that will comfortably get stuck in your head. Islands might want you to think otherwise: The Montreal bandís quirky forerunner, the Unicorns, developed a following in 2003 with their unconventional song structure. Islands' success, however, is to keep the Unicorns' trademark humor and flair, while making it palatable to those who don't enjoy the avant-garde.

Listen for the "doo-doo"s on Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby (presumably a shout-out to 1992's first couple of R&B), or the calypso percussion on Joggin Gorgeous Summer. There is, in fact, nothing too shocking about this highly entertaining album. Large chunks of songs seem to come straight out of Built to Spill, or a late-60s jangly-guitar-rock collection. At other points, the disc feels like kids' old sing-along cassettes. There are recorders and kazoos. The lyrics, too, are often nonsensical. Really: "The frogs, the frogs got it first/ And the birds all knew it too/ The worst was the worst smell on earth/ Silver in snow, silver in snow." And, wait, there's more: "Ah ah/ You can wrestle my name/ It's the mines in Africa that are to blame/ You can scoop out my brains, shape it into an ear and then tell me your pain."

Scoop out my brains? Yes, the album is silly. But, possibly because of its silliness, the music is both catchy enough to be fun and obscure enough for Islands to retain the underground credibility the band's founders so successfully built when they were two thirds of the Unicorns. (They've picked up some additional players for this recording.) After all, it's not really such a fine line between fun and weird. Islands follow in a long tradition of oddball acts, from David Bowie to alternative rock star Beck, who, incidentally, took Islands with him on tour last fall.

Of course, there's just about zero chance that Islands will become the first of Canada's respected indie acts to crack the mainstream to the level of a Bowie or a Beck. It doesn't help that Return To The Sea is being released Tuesday on the brand-new Equator Records, essentially a one-man show. (Owner Mathieu Drouin seemed surprised TIME had even procured an advance copy of the album.) Still, Islands seem like they could be a moderately successful crossover band. Their CD is more listenable than the Unicorns' album, and far more listenable than the noisy, rough-around-the-edges tracks that Islands released online last year. Stranger things have happened.