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‘Hoping You Get Dancing Feet’: Islands’ Heady ‘Vapours’

The brass blares, the bass percolates with merry abandon, and Nick Diamonds bubbles and bounces as if he’s in an indie-pop dance-party wonderland -- so goes the title track of Islands’ new Vapours (Anti-), out today and already establishing a major beachhead on my player. “It’s the bass line in your mind,” drawls Diamonds sweetly. “It’s a sexy way to cry / You know I had my share of doubts / Until I saw the vapours in your eyes.”

The tune segues seamlessly into the next -- sassy synth-pop nugget, “Devout” – because life is a big, buoyant mix on these Islands. The group seems friskier than ever with the return of original member Jamie Thompson, who left amicably after Islands’ 2006 debut, Return to the Sea (Equator), taking his beats with him. Now with Thompson back behind kit and drum machine, Islands have steered away from proggy shores and returned to a realm much like Of Montreal’s and Architecture in Helsinki’s -- combos that take the best and worst of times and send it all spinning across the expansive, embracing dance floor.


"Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby," directed by Ben Jones of Paperrad, off Return to the Sea.

Opening track, “Switched On,” turns it up from the start with a churning, rubbery rhythm and squelching synths with hints of the Strokes’ freewheeling melodicism: “You switch on for the city / I’m gone from the city / Come on, strong winds move on,” Diamonds sings matter-of-factly, happily. “You belong in the city / I’m wrong for the city / Switch on a sad song when I’m gone.” So sad, so glad, he adds the slightest squeal to the end of a lyric. The Montreal-based Diamonds – who formed one leg of the legendary Unicorns under his given moniker, Nicholas Thorburn -- is a pop surrealist willing to plunge into the sorrow, as well as fruit metaphors, toothsome hooks, and cheesy analog synths fists first, a blossom between his teeth.

There’s much here that’ll grab you immediately. The synthesizer that’s as massive as ELO on “Disarming the Car Bomb” -- it plays off a sinewy guitar solo that teeters between the most awkward soul and the most ungainly blues with the utmost charm, before colliding with tinkling, twinkling roadhouse piano. Even when the pace slows, Islands never neglect the pleasure principle. Beach Boys-like, ethereal harmonies float against a miasma of synth, acoustic guitar, and cricket sounds on “On Foreigner” – the most gorgeous song missing from the latest Grizzly Bear disc. Diamonds may assure us with the final number, “Everything Is Under Control,” but we’re not worried: Just keep on dancing.

Islands play Friday, Oct. 23, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. Jemina Pearl and Toro Y Moi open. $14. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com.