When Dance Moves Sing…
It’s no secret that Future Islands’ front man Samuel T. Herring has got some moves… His debut television performance on Letterman, which showcased his wild but captivating signature dance moves back during the release of Singles, may very well have put his band on the map as a must-see live performance. These days, it’s a challenge to score tickets to a Future Islands show if they’re not playing a festival. This year at Coachella, Herring and friends graced one of the main stages and performed mostly tracks from their latest album The Far Field. Even though it was probably over 100 degrees outside, Herring wore his best button-down and performed with as much intensity as ever, sweat dripping profusely from every part of his body while he sang in his distinct raspy voice, letting the occasional surprise Danny Elfman-inspired growl come through. He moved intuitively about the stage, all the while maintaining a gaze most intense.
The Far Field is characteristically Future Islands. Herring’s distinct vocals and the synth-laden ’80s inspired backdrop complement each other as they always do. The band’s songs remain rhythmically straightforward, and their melodies seem to draw inspiration from one another, giving most of the tracks a similarity that is unavoidable. They don’t seem to stand out as much as they did on previous albums. Rather, the new album stays in its lane when it comes to variety of sounds, as Herring seemingly sings about relationships lost and the maturity it takes to move on.
“Aladdin” opens the album on a strong note, with a classic fade-in and pinging synth notes in Future Islands’ favorite ascending thirds progression. “Time On Her Side” picks up the pace slightly, this time with a bass playing a moving line, while the synth plucks through minor-key arpeggios. “Ran” and “North Star” are the least captivating tracks featured of the album, and several of the other numbers start to blend together in a wash of the same rhythm and progressions. However, there are surely unique pieces to be pulled from the album. “Shadows” is a rare treat with a guest appearance from rock legend Debbie Harry, who lends her vocals, providing an updated new wave sound. And closing track “Black Rose” ends the album on a somber, but enjoyable note.
The Baltimore-based group are sticking to what’s working for them and continuing to appeal to the masses in the electro-pop and indie rock worlds. However, where their 2014 release Singles dared to take chances, The Far Field does not so much. While perfectly danceable, there is some variety missing that would really have showcased the full potential of Herring’s voice, as “Fall From Grace” did for Singles. Regardless, Future Islands have made a name for themselves by sharing a unique sound and performance style that leaves everyone wanting more.