Death Vessel is a project headed by Joel Thibodeau. While the group has featured a slew of guest musicians, it is entirely Thibodeaus work (both as a solo artist and band leader). In the interim between his last record for Sub Pop and Island Intervals, Joel was invited to Reykjavik by Sigur Ros singer Jonsi and producer Alex Summers. There, they spent three months together recording the album, his first in five years.
Starting with a slow build of harmonium, toy pianos, and unidentifiable percussion, opening track Ejecta abruptly turns into a dense pop song (albeit a solemn one). Thibodeau references bouncy castles and the exhaled youth, suggesting a newfound sense of nostalgia in his writing. With respect to the pacing and overall feel of Island Intervals, Ejecta serves as a perfect opening track.
Sub Pops press release describes Thibodeaus voice as slender, winsome at once so comforting and so unsettling that it might be the greatest of his many strengths. His vocals has a tendency to float above the rest of the music, and while using ethereal as a descriptor may be cliché, it truly does have an otherwordly quality. If he werent singing in English, Thibodeau could be mistaken for Jonsi on many of Island Intervals songs.
The influence of Jonsi and Summers shines through in more than just Thibodeaus singing. Tracks like Velvet Antlers and Ejecta feature the same slow build to crescendo that characterizes much of Sigur Ros music. Most of Island Intervals formula feels rooted more in contemporary indie rock than folk, but there are a few exceptions. Mercury Dime is an upbeat song led by a rollicking guitar-and-drum combination. Isla Drown follows, indebted equal parts to Jonsi/Sigur Ros and the 70s English folk movement. While the sparse acoustic fingerpicking could be influenced by Richard Thompson, the vocal melody is as beautiful as Jonsis strongest work.
Island Intervals is a marked improvement from Thibodeaus earlier work. If he continues down this route, we could see him reaching the same critical acclaim that his Icelandic contemporaries did in decades past.