Firmly rooted in rock music, the record also inhibits a kind of ambient space, much like Pink Floyd or a more recent band like Secret Machines... At a time in music where the number of instruments that a band employs in order to achieve their sound seems to have only grown with time, there is something inherently refreshing about James and Blackburn.
Ken Kelly, Times & Transcript
Songs like “Merry Go-Round” and “Holiday” fill up that [sonic] space with astonishing ease. The group’s tracks are simultaneously epic and tender, with the bass and drum lines providing an unshakeably solid foundation for Edwards’s yearning vocal style and thoughtful lyrics.
- Zoe Kelsey, The Journal
"Then Owen Edwards sang the words “I go outside to smell the rain” on the album’s opening track “We Have No Names For Anything”, and knew immediately I was listening to something special. There is a deflated, borderline melancholic quality to Edward’s vocal style that belies the rich twang and reverb of guitars and intensity of Sébastien Button’s drumming that makes James And Blackburn exceptionally interesting and unique."
- Dave MacIntyre, Examiner
"For a young, three-piece band releasing their debut LP, James and Blackburn certainly don't sound like it. Both confident and whole sounding, Island Universe is your basic indie-rock record but with a lot to offer."
- Laura Stanley, Grayowl Point
"This is next-level stuff they are doing right here. That the band basically took a year to write and perfect these songs before recording them and releasing them is very evident, because unlike a lot of releases the shine does not wear off this one with increased listens. In fact, every time I’ve heard it so far I’ve been finding new things to love about it and appreciating it more and more."
- Dan Wolovick, Two Way Monologues
"Their sound has been described as alternative rock with elements of folk, blues, progressive rock, the psychedelic and more. But they say that’s just how they like it – left up to the listener to decide."
- Ilana Belfer, Centretown News (Ottawa)
"Seeing them live then, I focused on appreciating their musicianship, stage presence and how they interacted as a band. Button is a highly entertaining drummer with a penchant for playing barefoot, Kotchapaw is one of the tightest bassists out there and Edwards sings with a maturity beyond his years; his deep, soulful vocals have garnered valid comparisons to Dylan."
- Chiara DiAngelo, Buying Shots For Bands
"Metaphor-ridden lyrics are executed
through a balanced chemistry that is gradually revealed throughout the duration
of the record. Every band member's individual talent is audible as each riff,
beat and pitch contributes to a delightfully different sound that comes with
every track... As an avid fan of indie music, it was refreshing to feast my ears on a record of so much internal eclecticism. "
- Christina Luo, thenewmusic.ca
"The 10 song album showcases J&B’s varied, artistic approach as tracks
border on ambient, spacey sounds and often blast off into explosive rock
crunchers. Edwards’ vocals are reminiscent of early Dylan at times and later
Bowie at others, pulling the listener closer for a second take."
McKechnie, The Ottawa Citizen
is truly a great piece of work – all the more so for a debut – and with a few
sing-alongs, some dancier numbers and slower lulls along the path, Island
Universe shows just how diverse James & Blackburn can be, leaving much to
the imagination about what they might create in the future."
Stephenson Price, The
“The tight bond between the three is making for terrific chemistry, and lots of
solid songs with Edwards’ poetic lyrics like his idols Cat Stevens and Bob
Dylan, wrapped in a blues rock wrap.”
- Denis Armstrong, The Ottawa Sun
“James & Blackburn are non-intrusive in their music, it's there for you to
enjoy unlike some other acts that insist on the hard drive in an attempt to
keep their audience interested.”
- Travis Hatcher, NxEW