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Warmer Climes: Halfby’s The Island Of Curiosity

I fully expect The Island Of Curiosity to be just as great an album in the fall as it is now. Come the freezing chokehold and increased heating bills of winter I’m sure Halfby’s latest album will be an excellent escape. But I’m positive he made this as a pure summer album, meant to serve as the soundtrack to days spent sweating away inside or on drives to the local waterpark. Don’t be phased by the calendar telling you you’re halfway to the Fall…we are just entering peak Summertime, which means you still have time to embrace Island as you’re Summer jam album.

This album’s so damn tropical I’m stunned it didn’t come from Sweden. Halfby embraces the Baeleric sound favored by nearly everyone on the Sincerely Yours label and Studio. Tracks like the woozy “Blue Condition” and the gliding wonder of “Never Click” ooze over with warm sounds that continue to drive bloggers into a tizzy. Album highlight “Whispering My Name” captures the joyous summer feel best, turning a female vocal sample into a breathless sound seemingly caught in the breeze. It’s all set against Island’s most wide-eyed sounds, a Club-Med worthy mash of island instrumentation. It’s never complicated and often to the point – on “Hunting Out Of Season” Halfby basically rejiggers Vampire Weekend’s “Cousins” but tosses aside the biggest roadblock to enjoying that bunch (the vocals). Island abounds with simple pleasure sounds perfect for this particular season.

Not to imply Halfby’s music isn’t well constructed. “Juicy” finds the producer laying out a sacks-worth of brief hip-hop samples over a steel drum dominated beat. He times each sample…whether it be Flava Flav or Sugar Hill Gang…just perfectly, so the song never loses its party vibe. Even better is the sample-delic “Mad Surfin'” which piles Bollywood onto chipmunked raps onto who knows what. This album’s obvious fault…that it’s too summery…gets steamrolled over by Halfby’s excellent production, which manages to stir up familiar ingredients into exciting tastes on each new song.

The majority of Island is made up of breezy instrumentals, but three tracks feature guest singers. Opening song and lead single “Man On Fire” drafts Broadcast 2000’s Joe Steer to sing over a sea of guitar and bottle clinks. He delivers the goods, adding an extra punch to an already good song. Even better is “North Marine Drive” with Skibunny’s Tanya Mellotte. Whereas “Man On Fire” slows the pace down a bit, “Drive” moves at the same speed of Halfby’s instrumental works but drizzles Mellotte’s sweet voice over it. The resulting chorus is an absolute beast of emotional dynamite, the type of huge hook the best Sincerely Yours’ artists hit on. Last is closing track “Peace Pipe,” with vocals by Is Tropical, a bouncy bit of island flavor that comes off as a little goofy for a finale.

Like ice cream, baseball and Predators, I’m sure you can get a fair amount of enjoyment out of Island during the colder times of the year. But it is at it’s best now, during scorching days and bug-filled nights. 2010, meet the soundtrack for you’re next two months.