EDITOR’S NOTE: In December, we like to take a look back at albums we didn’t get around to reviewing earlier in the year. Islands was released in June.
There’s a welcoming softness to New York-based singer-songwriter Erin Durant’s second album, Islands. Alongside a sizable band, which includes TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, who also produced the record, Durant crafts wholesome folk songs that use the same warm palette that a sunrise does.
And like a sunrise, these songs take their time unfolding; an instrumental interlude (“Winterlude”) is the only track that clocks in at under three minutes. A piano, dulcimer, guitars, a pedal steel, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, flute and more come together to fill up the songs’ spaces with breezy, poppy harmonies while Durant’s convivial voice weaves in and out with ease. “Highway Blue” and “Take a Load Off” bounce with frisky piano chords, but on both tracks, Durant carves out space for herself, as if to catch her breath, by briefly playing a stripped-down piano section before returning to a buoyant melody.
Across the album’s eight songs, this instrumental softness soothes Durant’s anxious spirit. While the restlessness of Durant’s lyrics in some spaces would make the songs agitated, Islands feels light-hearted. She takes listeners across America in search of herself and to confront her loneliness. From Florida to California, from “eating breakfast of fancy coffee and eggs” to dancing all night, Durant cherishes each experience she has wholeheartedly. On the standout opening track “Rising Sun,” a perennial song rooted by a lapping percussive beat, she lays out the purpose of her adventures and the heart of the album: “To be alone feels like a life of crime but to fear the unknown is an uglier rhyme.”
On Islands, Durant faces the unknown with care and compassion, and by doing so with richly warm sonic accompaniment, this album is a triumph.