Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18
  1. A rich, exciting, and emotionally deep sounding album that carries on the freewheeling spirit and sound of the Unicorns as well as that of the Elephant 6 bands of the late '90s.
  2. The duo's current sonic incarnation favors melody over mayhem, and all the better for it.
  3. Return to the Sea is a case of Diamonds and Tambeur yanking up their anchor and setting sail for new waters, enjoying the freedoms of exploration and discovery.
  4. Filter
    It's sprawling, ambitious pop music. It's just not perfect--not yet. [#20, p.92]
  5. Entertainment Weekly
    The Frank Zappa/Neutral Milk Hotel/Muppet Show vibe doesn't always jibe, but that's half the fun. [7 Apr 2006, p.63]
  6. A tighter, more controlled version of The Unicorns' wackiness.
  7. This album is a great deal of fun.
  8. Those who felt like maybe they were starting to get Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? only to be left out by Unicorns’ sudden dissolution should be reassured that Return to the Sea is a more rooted and confident effort.
  9. Return to the Sea is filled with breezy, infectious melodies and quirky whip-smart lyrics; qualities that were sometimes lost underneath the Unicorns' shtick.
  10. Return to the Sea reins in its eccentricities successfully enough to illustrate that the most understated risks can be the most rewarding.
  11. What is surprising is the consistent quality of the songwriting.
  12. Under The Radar
    Islands have made a grand entrance into the indie-rock world. [Summer 2006, p.90]
  13. Thanks to some subtly disquieting diction it’s almost as disturbingly memorable as a cuddly cartoon blood orgy.
  14. Alternative Press
    Amid the highlife guitars and percussion that give Sea a delightful Afro-pop sheen... it's impossible to ignore the creeping conventionalism of the disc's best tracks. [Jun 2006, p.178]
  15. New Musical Express (NME)
    A one-way ticket to the outer limits of the solar system. [8 Apr 2006, p.39]
  16. While the bouncy good-time foolery is charming enough in small doses, Islands' relentlessly giddy glee gets annoying awfully fast.
  17. Q Magazine
    At times Return To The Sea can be too clever for its own good. But there's also an ambition here that's hard to knock. [May 2006, p.126]
  18. There are some redeeming qualities, but for every success there are one or two failures.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 44 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 44
  2. Negative: 1 out of 44
  1. [Anonymous]
    Nov 9, 2006
    One of the best this year. A constantly fun and interesting listen. "Swans (Life After Death)" is one of the best songs this year.
  2. FlinchBot
    Sep 23, 2006
    Album of the year so far.
  3. KevinM
    Sep 16, 2006
    A pop masterpiece. This isn't the Unicorns back from the dead, Nick Diamond in a new project with a whole different mood, and sound than A pop masterpiece. This isn't the Unicorns back from the dead, Nick Diamond in a new project with a whole different mood, and sound than the Unicorns. This is a rich piece of work, it has probably the best pop song of the year (Rough Gem), a fantastic epic opener and some other great highlights such as "Don't Call me Whitney, Bobby", "Where There's A Whale There's A Whalebone", and "Bucky Little Wing". Definitely listen to this for some great organic pop and some great instrumentation. This album IS an adventure as someone else pointed out. Full Review »