Synthpop outfit combines deep lyrics with lighthearted synth beats
Indie synthpop band Future Islands had a fear of “losing the dream” before the release of their latest album As Long As You Are. The band seemed to have gained new fans and fame overnight after their critically acclaimed fourth album Singles, as well as the viral performance of their song “Seasons” on the David Letterman show. After Singles came The Far Field in 2017, which the band saw as a rushed “condescending” version of what they could have done. Samuel T. Herring, the lead vocalist and lyricist of the band, felt as if he was losing the dream that started Future Islands in the first place.
The Maryland-based band consists of Gerrit Welmers (keyboard), William Cashion (strings), Samuel T. Herring (vocals) and Michael Lowry (drums). The original version of the band was called Art Lord and the Self Portraits, consisting of a group of college students who were in the same art class. Welmers and Herring had been friends for a while as they both grew up in a small North Carolina town and both had an interest in music. Herring and Cashion started the band, inviting Welmers to join as well as others. Art Lord and the Self Portraits had some small town success and gained notoriety, going on small tours and opening for other bands in the area. Being a college band, some members had graduated or moved on so it was rebranded as Future Islands in 2006. Their dream of deep lyrics and synthpop beats had come true, and the band released three albums following their commencement.
As Long As You Are is at times too real that it hurts. Future Islands pride themselves on their beautifully raw lyrics and mellow synth beats. Themes include rebirth, lost love and the pain of leaving people and places behind, and some of the songs on the album will remind listeners of driving with the windows down in a small town, revisiting the memories of certain places and people. The lyrics don’t hold back with the amount of truths they hold, and Herring’s gruff vocals really highlight the lovely synth backing tracks.
The album starts off with “Glada,” that has a relaxed melody coupled with Herring’s signature low, growling vocals. His vocals are distinct; while they are incredibly deep, there’s a certain softness to his words and enunciation. The lyrics are nature themed, as the song was written in the Swedish countryside. The lyrics discuss the renewal of nature and feeling new sparks of love, as well as questioning whether that love is deserved or not.
This song is followed by the single “For Sure.” The track has wonderful imagery with the lyrics: “When we sat on the stones, watching the fish run under our feet and flow.” “For Sure” is about finally feeling trust while in love–it’s genuine, and above all, pure. The outro switches up the chorus lyrics with, “I will never keep you from just who you are, I know.” These lyrics expose the realities of what love should be: two individual souls, bending for each other, not breaking.
Deeper into the album lies “City’s Face,” an homage to starting somewhere new and thinking about memories one would rather forget. While the song is about a physical city, it’s also about the pain caused by a particular person. “City’s Face” is slow and mellow, complete with nostalgic lyrics that insist on remembering the past, even if it hurts.
“Waking” follows the previous song with a completely different vibe–fast paced and catchy with existential lyrics. The song opens with the lines, “I’m sitting here thinking what’s my purpose?/ What’s my meaning?” It’s a track that contains various questions that all point to coming to terms with oneself.
The album comes to a close with “Hit the Coast.” It fills the listeners with a sense of insatiable joy and inspiration, and has one of the best sounds on the entire album. The song starts off with a wonderful drum beat before leading into the light ’80s-inspired synth melody that Future Islands is known for. It’s the perfect song for a drive into the sunset, and the perfect song to escape the hardships that life brings.
As Long As You Are is an album filled with pure intentions and heart, refreshingly real and undeniably euphoric. Future Islands certainly didn’t “lose the dream”–this album is the dream. With its synth beats and touching lyrics, it will remind listeners of the intense feeling of being human.