Nick Diamonds and J’aime Tambeur used to be two-thirds of The Unicorns, the Canadian bubblegum-psych band that drenched pop music in acid and sang spook songs about ghosts. But with The ‘Corns disbanded, Diamonds and Tambeur have reconvened under the name Islands and called in a few Montreal-based buddies the indie kids might recognize (Richard Reed Parry and Regine Chassagne of The Arcade Fire and Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade, just to name a few). The result is an immediately accessible, immediately endearing debut. Basically, Return to the Sea is the album that would have followed The Unicorns’ Who Will Cut Our Hair When You’re Gone if the original trio stretched their artistic arms. In its 11 tracks of epic pop, Return is a near seamless ride through weird-world hip-hop megalomania, symphonic extravagance, tiki-torch whimsy, and so, so much else. Bottom line is you won‘t have a better time in 2006.