Islands’ second album after several line-up shifts and uncertainty is an extensive, and dense, collection of rustic anthems and art ballads. As youthful and mysterious as its cover, Arm’s Way is agile to the point of near-exhaustion. It’s a complex mix of basement-rock and museum-quality movements that really have a shortage of euphoria.
Since their captivating debut, Return to the Sea, Islands have struggled to maintain consistency within the group, but that hasn’t prevented them from creating a rich collection of super-cohesive, band-next-door tunes. Most tracks on Arm’s Way clock in over five minutes (and the last track is over eleven), so it’s obvious that they have no problem putting the proverbial pen to paper despite a changing lineup. The opening track, "The Arm" is an orchestra-tinged romp with singer Nick T belting out arena-rock vocals while drums, guitars, and strings dance behind him. "Pieces of You" is a strutting nu-hoedown and "J’aime Vous Voir Quitter" is built on a quick, punk-ish gallop while vocals and guitars strain themselves (in a good way) to keep up with the pace. "Creeper" mixes a smoother, electronic edge into Arm’s Way and gives the album a clever balance to its runaway strength.
With a high level of energy that can only be accomplished at a young age, Islands’ ability to pack such a variety of arrangements onto the album is all the more impressive. While "Kids Don’t Know Shit" keeps a playground vibe, "In the Rushes" is a dark, molten ballad with dramatic flourishes like that of a school-aged Queen. "To a Bond" is a light-hearted, but highly intelligent, rollicker and the last track, "Vertigo (If It’s A Crime)" has about a hundred different sounds. They’ve essentially spared no expense of effort putting together a seemingly innocent masterpiece.
Even though Arm’s Way goes on for over 75 minutes, there’s rarely a dull moment thanks to the band’s overflowing exuberance. They’ve built a reputation on injecting adrenaline into the Canadian music scene in general, and this album certainly continues that.