On their new EP, Sick City, Volcanoes Make Islands put on a nice display of musical acumen. It is a record at once huge, and still personal. It’s a four-track release, so let’s go through it track by track.
On the opener, “The City of Big Yellers,” you get a vibe that you might feel on a Black Keys record. Booming, dissonant guitar followed by a crushing drum beat kick off the track and prepare you for the audio assault you are about to endure. When the voice drops in, it’s surprisingly sweet. It’s a nice contrast to the music, and turns what could have been a decent straightforward rock song into a pretty good indie/pop tune. The lyrics are quite good here, also. I’m a man who believes you can say more with less (except when you can say more with more — i.e. my Band of Horses show review), so I enjoy the chorus, when he sings “We are all in this together.” The song gets even more aggressive toward the end, which I think insures the energy doesn’t slow. It’s a good song, but not my favorite on the EP.
My favorite song on Sick City would be track two, “Still Here.” This is a crazy song. It has a bit of a dance beat. Sounds like a mix between Franz Ferdinand and Belle & Sebastian‘s “Your Cover’s Blown.” The repeated lines here are: “Cut off my legs and keep me still. Cut off, cut off my legs. I’ve had my fill.”And at the 1:45 mark in the song, everything goes nuts. All kinds of reverb and effects come flying at you for about 45 seconds. A seriously fun song that needs to be repeated a few times before moving on to the next one.
“Gypsies” starts off a bit slow, but keeps some of the sonic elements from the previous song. I’m reminded of Death Cab for Cutie when I hear this one, only I like this singer more than Ben Gibbard. The track stays calm for a while, then busts into more of the frenetically paced music we’ve been hearing thus far. The keyboard and guitar really stand out on “Gypsies” more than any other track on the EP. There’s still a good amount of production going on outside of the live instruments, but it seems to be pushed to the background for the most part.
“Granola,” the slowest song on the record, also has the best lyrics. From beginning to end, there’s a beautiful sense of yearning that is non-existent on the other tracks, but done very well here.
You, you came to me
In a dream I’ve had before
This time, I wasn’t alone
Cause there was you, running with me
And when I woke up, I realized
I hadn’t seen you in quite some time
The song does have some heavy guitar flourishes, but mostly it’s softer and sweet. It reminds me a lot of some R.E.M. songs from back before college rock became Indie.
I think these four songs are a precursor to a very big, very good full-length from Volcanoes Make Islands. I definitely recommend picking up this release and checking them out live when you get the opportunity.
- Volcanoes Make Islands is Brad Sawicki and Henry Bianco.
- Sick City is available for free on the group’s Bandcamp page. Yes, free!