No Island’s newest album Better Days marks the first time in the Vancouver band’s five-year history that the current roster of musicians perform on the same album. The result is their most complete and vibrant-sounding effort to date.
The album opens with “First to Forget,” showcasing the band’s strong vocal harmonies and Supertramp-esque guitar and piano stylings. The drum beat is irresistible and the chorus is pop-rock at its best — brimming with infectiousness and belting-with-the-windows-open lyrics. The band makes their best songs when they embrace this formula, like on the album’s most repeatable track, “Angeline,” which speaks of a complicated love affair.
“Second Spin” opens with anthemic piano and crashing cymbals that hint towards the level of professionalism found on the rest of the record. Featuring a perfectly executed saxophone solo, which is as surprising as it is satisfying, “Second Spin” will surely lead to air-sax performances in your kitchen.
Elements of Elton John, Pink Floyd and Chicago are all over Better Days, mostly on “City of Strangers” and “Where We Left It.” The sound is richer for it.
This is music that knows where it’s been and where it wants to go. As the title suggests, it’s an album that yearns for better days filled with cold beers and rocking out with friends.
While the immersive solos provide a satisfying musicality, the vocals, though smooth and fitting, often feel restrained. This album drips with passion, but the vocal intensity doesn’t always match the music’s liberated feeling. When the instrumentals are at their most grandiose, the vocals often feel like they’re holding back.
One can hope this isn’t the case with their live show. The two-minute musical interlude in “Long Road” suggests this is an album begging for live performance. Hopefully, No Island crosses the Rockies and graces us prairie-folk with their infectious music sometime soon.