Sonically finessed and emotionally raw, ISLAND’s debut album ‘Feels Like Air’ captures with majestic cohesion our search for meaning and connection.
At first listen, ISLAND’s debut album Feels Like Air has the kind of majestic cohesion that makes you just want to throw your hands up and shout out to the heavens. There must be something in the water – such talent can’t possibly come naturally! It’s too pure; too magnificently simple and simplistically magnificent.
Released April 6, 2018 via Frenchkiss Records, ISLAND’s debut album feels natural and effortless, and indeed part of the genius of ISLAND’s music lies in how easy they make everything look. The truth is that Feels Like Air is an album many years in the making – a record that is as much the result of trial and error, as it is the brainchild of four incredibly talented British musicians who have honed their craft, pushed each other, struggled, and persevered.
We ride this heartless road
I curse our song on the radio
We fly, we flick and float
Turning upside down in the afterglow
She said, oh, she don’t know
Where I’ll go, where will I go
But I know, know she knows
Every time I tell her so
– “Ride,” ISLAND
Listen: ‘Feels Like Air’ – ISLAND
London’s ISLAND shot through the noise with November 2015’s debut Girl EP, garnering a loyal following in and around their hometown. 2016’s singles “Spotless Mind” and “Come with Me” found the band already evolving their style, displaying the first signs of the vibing guitar rock they’ve come to so wholeheartedly embrace. In our 2016 interview about their sophomore EP A Place You Like, the band expressed excitement and relief with regards to their growth, stating, “we’ve got much closer to capturing our live sound on record… Our whole recording process was a revelation for us and we felt super comfortable throughout.”
If A Place You Like was the test drive, then Feels Like Air is the highway cruise. It’s the perfect final introduction for ISLAND, comprised of old friends Rollo Doherty (vocals, guitar), James Wolfe (bass), Jack Raeder (guitar), and Toby Richards (drums). Having found their niche in a dreamy, beat-driven soundspace full of reverb-laden guitars and airy atmospheres, the band take time to explore and reflect, question and critique.
Album opener “Ride” embarks on that journey with cascading guitar riffs and a heavy pulse. With a ragged fire in his voice, Rollo Doherty finds himself surrendering to the one he loves – though we can’t necessarily know if that’s music, the open road, or an actual person. “I’ll go where she goes, every time she tells me so,” he sings, flooding our ears with emotional strain.
So begins ISLAND’s long and winding road through self-doubt and intuition, passion and pain, change and stagnation. Feels Like Air is, in so many ways, a quintessential albums for your 20s: Infectiously catchy songs like “Try,” “Something Perfect” and the poetically beautiful “We Can Go Anywhere” seem to struggle simultaneously with relationships (our individual quest for “the one”) as well as purpose (our individual quest for meaning).
Oh, I caught sight of
the ghost in the night
I’ll try, cast light on
the hand that rolls the dice
I thought, I thought the
colours would call the rain
I want, I want to
bury my heart on a blade
We can go anywhere
– “We Can Go Anywhere,” ISLAND
No matter how layered ISLAND’s metaphors become, their songs are all understadable: One doesn’t need to carefully decrypt their lyrics to appreciate the palpable emotions resonating throughout this music. There’s drama (“The Day I Die“); there’s passionate resilience (“Horizon“); there’s religious critique, questioning, faith and surrender (“Moth” and “God Forgive“).
I’m talkin’ to God, but I don’t think He heard
So took my problems to a man, don’t know his name
Wrote on the wall, I came here to be seen
And said to the floor these words all tear me free
I left my heart at the bottom of the cache
Drown in my thoughts, I’m just a helpless man
And how can I stay? It’s over now
And how can I change? It all falls down
– “Moth,” ISLAND
While no singular theme ties Feels Like Air‘s eleven songs together in a neat, all-encompassing bow, certainly the record as a whole radiates with hunger for understanding: Throughout ISLAND’s debut, they are searching for meaning and yearning for connection – to feel connected to someone, something, and some place. “And oh, sweet lilyflower, where did you go? I been chasing that feeling since my first hello,” we hear on sweet acoustic closer “Lilyflower.” At the end of the day, we all just want to understand and to be understood, right? To feel comfortable in our skin; to feel at home.
Maybe that’s why ISLAND titled their debut Feels Like Air. The album’s penultimate track, “Feels Like Air” is a true love song – an overwhelming outpouring of heartfelt emotion that finally, after what feels like an eternity, seems to find momentary peace. “I tell my knees I can wait, while you’re waiting for a lullaby,” sings Doherty, his aching voice full of strength, tension and love. “Say your grace, count the freckles on your face, and remember all your little flaws that make my day…”
“And it feels like air,” he finally shouts to anyone who will listen. He’s finally found what he’s looking for: Feels Like Air is that long-sought truth, the light at the end of the tunnel that you thought would take a lifetime to discover. It’s happiness and joy; tranquility and knowing.
Sonically finessed and emotionally raw, ISLAND’s debut album delivers on all fronts. Haunting sounds evoke a haunted heart as ISLAND take listeners on an adventure through inner turmoil and strife, all the while staying true to their vibing musical identity. Don’t sleep on this stellar introduction, and be sure to catch ISLAND’s live show this year as they tour throughout Europe and North America! Dates and more info below…
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