Back in 2015, Palm released their fidgety, excitable debut, Trading Basics, and it had them quickly pegged as the mercurial love child of Deerhoof and Slint. While continuing to bear some of the hallmarks of rock's oddball past, 2017's Shadow Expert EP saw Palm shed such weighty comparisons in favor of tending to their own unique character. That EP both expanded and sharpened their chaotic whims into a taut, barely contained version of their debut's scrappier qualities, and their sophomore record further refines the whirling chaos.
Rock Island, rather fittingly, has a sunny, tropical air, and a dreamy quality pervades the record in exchange for the more abrasive edges of their previous efforts. "Composite" may open with a freaky guitar line, but it's paired with a delightful Beach Boys-esque melody. And "Theme from Rock Island" is a lapping, watery instrumental fit for any seaside jaunt. Equally, the stuttering tempo of "Forced Hand" mirrors the thrill of a roller coaster ride without the nausea, just. Indeed, Rock Island feels like it could soundtrack the slightly freaky, faded glory of an old seaside fair perfectly via its cotton candy-sweet melodies and odd time signatures.
Aside from the electro dalliances of the brief instrumental interlude "20664," Palm have largely remained within the strange little parameters they set out with on their debut. Nevertheless, this isn't a band stuck in first gear, as Palm continue to explore the weird little world they have created. In the case of Rock Island they have discovered some of their most beguiling compositions yet, from the delightful chiming guitars and honeyed, hazy vocal of "(Didn't What You Want) Happen" to the twists and ripples of "Heavy Lifting," which later becomes ecstatic. With Palm's latest, summer has come early in the form of refreshingly idiosyncratic pop music. Necessity might be the mother of invention, and their lack of training certainly gives their music a wonderfully eccentric slant, but that's just as likely due to their restless imaginations as it is circumstance.