Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After a solid run of albums that showed growth each time, Future Islands explode into greatness on their fourth album, and first for 4AD, 2014's Singles. Streamlining their synth-heavy, experimental, almost danceable sound of the past into something laser-focused, new wave familiar, and very, very immediate, the album is a great leap forward that's filled with intensely catchy songs and allows vocalist Samuel T. Herring to shine like the star he's always been.
When Future Islands appeared on the Late Show With David Letterman in early March, their four minutes on camera was a real "aha moment," not just for the millions that had never heard the band before, but for the band themselves. Their performance of "Seasons (Waiting On You)," highlighted by frontman Samuel T. Herring's resplendent choreography, was so special that not only did the internet explode in esteem, so did Letterman himself.The timing couldn't have been better for the Baltimore trio.
It’s always a curious thing when the musical stars seem to align perfectly, signposting the way for a band to make the step up to a higher level. Everything seems to be pointing in that direction now for Baltimore synth trio Future Islands. The band’s striking performance on The Late Show with David Letterman, illuminated by the magnetic, mesmerising presence of front man Samuel T Herring, has certainly done a great deal to bring the band into the public conscience.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. What becomes of the broken hearted? After three albums that spent most of their time analysing failed relationships and feelings of loss, one wondered what would come next for synth-romantics Future Islands and deeply introspective singer and lyricist Samuel T. Herring. His was a very particular melancholy; a dark night of the soul where bitterness and "Is it me?" vied for attention, emotions stuck in a holding pattern between stages two and three of the Kübler-Ross model.
There is simply no voice in music today quite like Samuel T. Herring’s. Absolutely untraditional and perpetually in conflict with itself, calling his vocals “beautiful” does not seem right, but again and again they—low, monotone wickedness that erupt into high, warbly mania—weirdly cannot be described as anything less than. Equal to Herring’s unparalleled vocal performances are bassist/guitarist William Cashion and electronic multi-instrumentalist Gerrit Welmers, who fuel Future Islands with an alluring sound that masters thoughtfully gentle and sorrowful songs as skillfully as triumphantly ecstatic and unrestrained ones.
Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring has an energy, a physical aura, that moves along a single line. On one end is a hangdog character with tucked-in shirt and pleated khakis and on the other is an ursine man-monster wresting primordial sounds from his heart. Until recently, we could find Herring only in the small clubs where Future Islands relentlessly toured.
Only the most hardened of hearts could resist Baltimore’s Future Islands: the finest indie-synth tearjerkers since Beach House (also from Baltimore – there must be something in the water). Reminiscent of The Killers back when The Killers had an actual soul, on the trio’s fourth and most commercial album to date their bass’n’Korg torch-songs employ everything from Balearic house on ‘A Dream Of You And Me’ to the M83-style nu-gaze of ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ in the making of pop music of almost unparalleled poignancy. Among the most powerful tracks are ‘Light House’, which takes New Order’s melancholic girl-pop and remakes it as bittersweet comedy, and ‘Spirit’, where Kraftwerk rub shoulders with Passion Pit.
Be careful with Future Islands' current single, Seasons. It'll end up on your iTunes Top 25 Most Played faster than the band's David Letterman appearance went viral on YouTube. It's as if Bruce Springsteen did a mid-tempo synth-pop song, an über-vulnerable finger-snapper. Except even the Boss couldn't be as exposed and captivating as the Baltimore trio's singer, Samuel T.
There is something insanely emotive about Future Islands' music. It lies predominantly in the proclamations of Samuel T Herring, who is one of the most charismatic and unconventional frontmen around. In the flesh he is utterly captivating. When he sings you listen. When he moves, you watch with ….
‘Seasons change,’ observes the opening lyric of Future Islands’ new album, which is funny, because this is a band immune to change. The severe kind, at least. That’s because they started out sporting extreme, anxious pop and a step anywhere else would just be a diversion. Eight years since forming, four albums deep - there remains no other band sounding remotely like Future Islands.
Naming your album Singles is a bold move, Future Islands. Not only is it confusing, but it’s slightly haughty. Is this supposed to be an album of previously released singles? Is every song supposed to pack the power of a “single”? Whatever you may think of the title’s connotations, the decision likely came from an influx of confidence, a factor which in turn makes this undeniably the Baltimore outfit’s strongest record to date.
With Singles, Future Islands' sound is at its most crisp and polished, though to call this a pop-centric project would be a simplification. Indeed, there's something almost operatic about the North Carolina group's fourth release, complete with all the perils that descriptor often implies. For instance, the way dramatic-to-a-fault vocalist Samuel T.
Samuel T. Herring provides what is arguably the most concise review of his band’s fourth album on its very first track: “People change/ But you know that some people never do.” Like pretty much all Future Islands songs, the song is about a lover in the losing, about fatalism and death, and, in synthesis, about relationships as a metonymy for the endings of all things. But on “Seasons (Waiting on You),” there’s enough evidence to read into the song a different meaning, to hear the song as Herring’s justification for making an appeal to a broader audience.
Baltimore's Future Islands could be just one more band of Eighties-y synth romantics. The difference is singer Samuel T. Herring, whose intense rasp evokes Broken English-era Marianne Faithfull if she came down with a serious case of Ian Curtis. He pours out sad-ballad syrup ("Seasons change/But I've grown tired of trying to change for you") like he's using it to clog a fresh wound.
“Right time, wrong record,” read the text to my phone from a friend who counts as a Future Islands early-adopter. I knew immediately she was referring to the stream of the band’s latest album, the misleadingly titled, Singles, that debuted earlier that morning. She had written the only review that would matter, even as Pitchfork rushed to declare the record an “8.0”, the band’s most favorable write-up to date.
If for whatever reason the sweeping beauty of something as gripping as “Tin Man” wasn’t enough, or if even the lifting, gently layered stroll of “Before the Bridge” didn’t do it, it always seemed as if something like Singles was tucked deep inside Future Islands’ arsenal. The pop-driven journey of “Long Flight” sounds like prime foreshadowing when you have the tight and compact pop sensibilities of Singles. Whereas erstwhile albums showcased a strong sense of concept, or even a wistful nod to nostalgia, the Baltimore-based band’s fourth album is layered with songs that are faultlessly executed from top to bottom.
Their previous album On The Water came dropped on Thrill Jockey, but Future Islands – based in Bodymore, Murdaland – for their first record in three years, headed to 4AD to release what’s probably the smiliest (though not that smiley) music of their lives. The majority of the group’s discography, though fantastic, has been in deep-seated melancholia, sparingly tinged with pop and ’80s oomph. Largely introverted and intimate, the noises from the North Carolina natives were never knowingly optimistic, but trading in sadness, they built a successful, plaudit-riddled career.
opinion byBENJI TAYLOR < @BenjiTaylorMade > The “manopuase”: that curious time in a man’s life when, burdened with a heady sense of his own mortality, and acutely conscious of the legacy he’ll bequeath to posterity, he arrives at a cross-roads where he must decide: What kind of Man do I want to be? Samuel T Herring - prophet and frontman for Baltimore synth-pop outfit Future Islands - has hit this point in his life earlier than most men. Resultantly, the existential angst that comes with the shadow of age looms large throughout Singles. But in asking himself and his band this very question, Future Islands have answered by crafting the most exciting LP of their flickering, fluttering eight year career.
Future Islands have, for several years now, stood as a bastion of sincerity in a sea of winking pastiche – illogically so when you consider vocalist Samuel T. Herring’s vaudevillian persona and the band’s Moog-y retro-Americana stylings, which ordinarily would form a layer to hide behind. But as critic Neil Ashman has observed, Herring and co are somewhat of a paradox in their ability to wring oodles of pathos from the apparatus of artifice.
“You can clean around the wound,” sang Future Islands frontman Sam Herring a few years back, “But if you want it to heal / It just takes time.” Singles, the band’s latest record, is largely the sound of Herring taking his own advice. The album—which seems poised to be the one that breaks Future Islands into a much wider field of acclaim—pulls the band’s two most recent LPs, 2010’s In Evening Air and 2011’s On the Water, into a loose, three-part narrative. In Evening Air, still the band’s best work and one of the most fiercely cathartic break-up records you’ll ever find, sprang from devastating betrayal and the twin pains of the toxic anger and wrenching self-doubt that come in the wake of such a shock.
You could be forgiven for calling Future Islands overwrought. Hailing from Baltimore, home of the infamous Wham City collective (who subscribe to a strict "more is more" philosophy), there's an air of seriousness about their work that you don't hear in other modern synthpop bands. Their earliest work was almost something of a novelty, playing off the stark contrast between the music and the vocals - while the music often spotlighted bright, catchy keyboard melodies, the vocals sounded straight out of a community college production of King Henry The Eighth.
Stereo matters on “Teeth Dreams,” the sixth studio album by the Hold Steady. The album starts with an insistent guitar line on the right and a snare drum socking along with it dead center, buttonholing a listener for five urgent seconds before a second guitar chimes in to fill the space on the left. It’s an announcement not only of the song’s first guitar hooks — with more to follow — but also of the way the Hold Steady has boldly rebuilt its music from within.