No Red Herring
Like many who attended this year’s SXSW, I was regaled by festival darlings Future Islands, a band whose buzz now rivals frontman Samuel T. Herring’s robust vocal prowess; it’s perfect timing for a band looking to release their fourth album. Their first release on 4AD, Singles points to what’s more often than not missing in the pseudo-indie scene: pure artistic confidence. Not a single beat swings too badly out of time, as with Herring’s deliberately off-tempo howls in second track “Spirit.” Think of opener “Seasons (Waiting On You)” as almost an amuse-bouche for what’s to come.
“Spirit” is full-force synthpop and perhaps the strongest track on an album that seems to boast every song as a single. It’s like Miley Cyrus naming her album Bangerz because she felt her music was just that damn good. Listening to more than just the staccato of the lyrics, there’s a depth to Singles that offers a surprising balance in perspective on moving forward. “A Song For Our Grandfathers” is a heartbreaking environmentalist ode, its heavy-handed imagery felt most closely in ’80s tones and buzzy harmonies. There’s a sincerity to Future Islands that extends further than their music and is only fully realized in their live shows, which stands as the only major criticism of this album.
Is there really any way to fully capture the ebullience of Herring and Co. as they dance across a stage, filling it to capacity with just three people? Whether every bit of Singles was cut live or rehearsed to the finest precision, Future Islands live are still so much more to behold. Their next efforts may draw them closer to meeting the high expectations of their live shows, as Singles does, or they’ll eschew the recreation of something so multifaceted in favor of continuing to push their sound in new directions. Either way, they’ve now got the world watching. And listening.