The Top 10 Islands, According to Nick Thorburn of Islands

With 10 new tunes from the shapeshifting electropop unit out this week, Thorburn shares an equally important “islands” list.
The Top 10 Islands, According to Nick Thorburn of Islands

With 10 new tunes from the shapeshifting electropop unit out this week, Thorburn shares an equally important “islands” list.

Words: Mike LeSuer

photo by Jason Tippett

June 08, 2021

With every new Islands record since their 2006 debut—which, among other things, features a thundering, near-10-minute opening track called “Swans” which nearly reaches the thundering no-wave pinnacles of the band of the same name, as well as a blindsiding mid-album verse from the very-wordy emcee Busdriver—the post-Unicorns Nick Thorburn project presents a completely revised version of itself, with every album having as little in common with the band’s preceding forms as it does with any other artist. It’s almost as if, hmm, each of these records exists as its own little island in the sea of amorphous electropop.

With Islomania, their latest and third nautically titled full-length, bass-grooving dance punk defines much of the record as foretold by lead-off single “(We Like to) Do It with the Lights On,” which lets the aid of !!! producer Patrick Ford be known. The heavy sax usage on “Closed Captioning,” meanwhile, harkens back to brooding ’00s indie peers Menomena as reworked by someone on the Vampire Weekend team from that same period (perhaps Joe LaPorta, who worked on the band’s first three albums and who mastered Islomania). The throughline in the album, as with the greater Islands discography, is that it never ventures too far off course from its seafaring themes.

“Until I moved to Los Angeles, I’d spent my entire life on an island,” Thorburn shares, explaining why this common thread works its way through most of Islands’ output. “I was born on Vancouver Island, and at the age of seven moved to Kaien Island (just south of the Alaskan panhandle). When I was 17 I moved to the Island of Montreal, and in 2007 I lived in Brooklyn (on Long Island) for three years. I didn’t plan it this way, but I suppose I like islands. There’s something comforting about being surrounded by water.”

With the record dropping this Friday, we kindly asked the songwriter to list the ten best islands this world has to offer in no particular order. Read on for that list, and pre-order Islomania via Royal Mountain Records here.


Cuba is a really cool island in the Caribbean. I visited this island in 2009. It was nice to meet the locals and learn more about their beautiful way of life. There was noticeable hardship, due to the sanctions imposed by an imperialist hegemon! 

Staten Island

The third largest and least populated of New York City’s boroughs, Staten Island is most notably home to the Wu-Tang. Imagine living on the same island as the Wu-Tang Clan? I’ve never been to Staten Island, but any place that can nurture the budding careers of RZA and Ghostface is alright with me.

Garbage Island

???? We are adrift in an ecological rift with nature! ???? Garbage Island has to go on the list, not because I love garbage or the degradation of the natural world, but as a sobering reminder that we are continuing to destroy the planet. Garbage Island is the manifestation of human greed and highlights the destructive nature of industrial capitalism.


Wowie! I went to Maui in 2007 to record a little side project EP with Daddy Kev called Reefer. It was a very stoned, trippy, Hawaiian record. Flying Lotus is on the record. At night we worked on the songs and during the day we went on day trips around the island. I got to swim with a turtle that was the size of a VW bug. While underwater, I could hear blue whales singing in the distance. That alone warrants an inclusion on the list. 

Island Records

I don’t know what they’re doing now, but because they released albums by Robert Palmer, Brian Eno, Pulp, Sparks, Roxy Music, Nick Drake, PJ Harvey, and Bob Marley, they’ve got to make the list. That’s a good roster! 

Desert Island Comics

This is a damn fine comic book store in Brooklyn. A wonderful little shop, curated and decorated with love and care. This is the place to get the best comics! Where else are you gonna discover the newest works by obscure Croatian artists, or pick up such classics as Olivier Schrauwen’s Arsène, Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest, and Nick Thorburn’s (ahem) Penguins

Hornby Island

This is an amazing little island off of Vancouver Island, near where I grew up. It’s such a peaceful little place, with sandy beaches and lush forests. There’s a beautiful park here called Helliwell Provincial Park with a grassy field and a striking cliff’s edge abutting the ocean. It’s quiet and tranquil—I went there recently and felt a serene calm wash over me that I hadn’t felt before or since. Please don’t ever go there! 


The island where both my parents come from. A beautiful, strange, and severe place, unlike no place on earth, certainly not like anywhere in North America. Newfoundland was a protectorate of Great Britain until 1949, at which point it joined the Canadian confederacy. It exists at the furthermost reaches of the continent, a small island province that feels like it exists outside of Canada, and a little outside of time itself. It’s a completely singular place, with incredible people and some of those spectacular breathtaking views of the open Atlantic, with icebergs and ice floes dotting the coves and harbors in the spring and summer. Stay away!

Kitchen Island

I’m not a nook guy, I’m not a “eat over the sink” guy, and I’m certainly not a “kitchen table” guy. I like an island. I want to be elevated! I want to pull up a bar stool, grab the paper and my morning coffee, and I am G2G (good to go). What a way to start the day. 


This band is fucking fantastic.