Review- “Islands Disappear”- Said the Whale

reviewed by Michael

I’m so pleased that I can bring out more blog posts now that I have a little bit more free time.

Yesterday, Said the Whale, November’s Parliament’s Choice, won a Bucky Award for Most Canadian Song, for their song “Emerald Lake, AB.” If such a category existed, the Vancouver band’s new album Islands Disappear should have taken the Most Canadian Album award.

But the Canadiana dripping from these 13 tracks is not your typical Anne Murray or Celine Dion kind of patriotism- the songs in this album were crafted from Said the Whale’s touring experiences. They make shoutouts to little known places in Canada such as Emerald Lake, Alberta; Holly, Ontario; and Elkhorn, Manitoba. Some are not specifically named but can still be seen as Canadian shoutouts, such as their second track “Out on the Shield”.

The band obviously knows what they’re doing. One thing that has bugged me about past albums is song length, and Said the Whale have got their lengths down pat. They are consistently able to pack songs full of meaning and catchy melodies all in songs under five minutes. They don’t waste any time with excess and gratuity.

The opening track, “Elkhorn” is a quick ode to the small village in Manitoba, and then moves into the more upbeat “Out on the Shield” which references the largest makeup of Canada’s geographic territory, the Canadian Shield.

After “BC Orienteering” which says “Even if you have a map/You shouldn’t travel alone,” some electric guitar riffs become present in “Camilo (the Magician)” which was described as “the song of the summer” for 2009. It stands out on the record specifically because of the guitar riffs- every other track is acoustic.

“Camilo” is a wonderful song which departs from the Canadiana for a second to talk about the discrepancies between fact and fiction.

The album ends on a sombre note with “Holly, Ontario.” Admittedly, I had to go to Google Maps to find out where Holly even is, that’s how small of a place it is. It mentions how very far it is from their home.

This album has been described as Said the Whale’s career record, and this is only their sophomore recording. I don’t want to jump the gun and say this is their best work (even though it is absolutely fantastic) because the band is still young and has many years of success and travelling ahead of them.

Top Tracks: “Out on the Shield”; “Camilo (the Magician)”; “Emerald Lake, AB”; “The Gift of a Black Heart” (although they’re all fantastic)

4 Hoots (out of 4) +*swoop*

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