Sinaloa - Oceans of Islands (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Oceans of Islands (2008)

Level Plane

Maybe I'm just not paying enough attention, but Sinaloa is playing a sound that's incredibly hard to find. Few bands are taking direct inspiration from early `90s emo, but count Sinaloa as one of them; apparently their Moss Icon and Indian Summer records still mean something to them, and we should be thankful.

On the Somerville, Mass. trio's third full-length, Oceans of Islands, Sinaloa pace things with a sense of deliberation and cautiousness. Pete Zetlan (?) yelps the lyrics like a young Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and he's often lent a hand from his bandmates Luke Pearson and Brendan Campbell. Not once do the band let loose a vicious scream over the nomadic proceedings, but it doesn't mean the record isn't cathartic. Opener "Tread, Not Trudge" immediately sets up the desolate scene of post-Katrina New Orleans (I know this because of the song explanations given with every track in the compact liner notes), while the bizarrely urgent "Echoes" is a song as easy to swallow as sand: Zetlan takes the point of view of his father watching his wife (and Zetlan's mother) slowly die of cancer. When you know the subject matter hits so close to Zetlan's heart, it's a little painful to hear his final narrative of, "With closed eyes I wonder the pain, my heart fills, cries and holds her."

Through all this, Oceans of Islands is surprisingly lush. With no bass and little to no auxiliary instrumentation (there's an occasional wailing horn á la Nation of Ulysses, like in "Name Names"), tracks like "What We Could Not Move" and "Rows of Tops" manage to fill a surprisingly large portion of the space among wandering guitar strokes and a strong rhythmic backbone courtesy of Pearson.

In "Seek Harbor," the soft backing vocals during the chorus complement the staccato main lines well, and the band's buildup to the end bears as much subtlety as they can muster. "Voices Resound" gets a little more angular and ragged, making for a crookedly aggressive centerpiece to the album.

Oceans of Islands doesn't come as a huge shock from Level Plane, but in reality, few other active bands really sound like Sinaloa. Instead of thrusting their songs to your ears, they let you decipher the emotion yourself and it makes for a curiously unique exchange.

Seek Harbor