cone magazine

Album Review: The Lagoons – Island Hopping

Album Release Date: March 29, 2024                                                                                                                                                                      Genre: Indie Rock / California Chill

It’s always a good sign when an album’s cover art matches the tracklist, and it’s safe to say that L.A.-based act The Lagoons nailed it on their latest release, Island Hopping. On the cover, The Lagoons, composed of brothers Joseph and Ryan Selan are pictured in silhouette at dusk, the warm glow of a nearly vanished sun barely highlighting the beach and sea behind them. This image easily captures the 10 tracks offered on their third album, giving off a sense of calm, mystery, and nostalgia. It screams that this will not be your typical summer party album. Instead, this is the LP you spin after returning home after a blissful day blessed by sunshine.

Kicking off the tracklist is “Hold Me In Your Arms,” a 90-second prelude that confidently lulls the listener into the next 30 minutes of laid-back jams. Following the record’s opener, “Surprise” stands out with the brothers adding just enough jazzy saxophone and gentle guitar licks to give the song real personality. The ante is upped on the poppier cut ‘Cheap Thrills,’ led by retro synths and a classic house beat, giving the track a late ’90s Euro feel. It’s just one moment where the band’s gentle combination of funky instrumentation and danceable rhythms hint at Downtempo acts such as Air.

On the title track, The Lagoons sound like they’re about to delve into lazy tropical house territory, which could have taken a dark turn. Fortunately, they add layers to their music to make it more nuanced. However, despite their efforts, these moments are where the album suffers most. When compared to tracks like “Need Your Love,” which has a groove similar to Tame Impala, or “Half My Life,” which features punchy acoustic guitar and feels like a 90s alternative rock song updated for 2024, these attempts at making music that would fit in a gym playlist don’t leave a lasting impression. Tracks such as “Need Your Love” and “Half My Life,” however, highlight the songwriter’s California soul and their love for indie and electronica, creating a more authentic sound.

The most misjudged moment on Island Hopping is the jarring track “Wandering,” a bizarre combination of autotune, finger-picked guitar, and forgettable lyrics. It serves as a good case study on why combining different styles solely for the sake of it can be problematic. Despite boasting a relaxing vibe overall, “Wandering” feels like a sudden shock — a bucket of ice water to the face.

Overall, The Lagoons’ Island Hopping  is a success. The Selan brothers exhibit a mastery of the studio, which is made even more evident by the album’s layered instrumentation and dulcet vocals, making nearly every track easy on the ears. The album’s first half shines particularly bright, showcasing the band’s prowess in jazzy and electronic elements. While there are thousands of producers who can churn out half-assed dance music, it’s the Lagoons’ natural ability to produce something that is both calming and catchy while striking an emotional chord. 

Words by Sam Walker-Smart

CONE Mag Album Score: 73%

Make sure to check out our live review of The Lagoon’s at Elsewhere in Brooklyn earlier this year!


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