ALBUM REVIEW: Future Islands – Singles

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Prime Listening

Future Islands | ARTIST

Singles | ALBUM

4AD | LABEL

25 March 2014 | RELEASE DATE

8.5 | 10

Future Islands’ remarkable new LP Singles finds the band finding a singular and noteworthy voice in the cluttered realm of synth-pop. That has become a dirty word in the past few years, as many bands have piggybacked on the movements popularity to score record deals, press, festival dates, etc. But Future Islands appear to have mastered the formula, and are now in the process of adding new variables to the preexisting equation.

Lead singer Samuel Herring in particular has grown leaps and bounds as a frontman, providing one of the more fascinating voices in indie rock in some time. His gravelly roar and delightful croon work equally well, making up for any perceived slights in the instrumentals. From the opening “Seasons (Waiting on You),” it’s evident that the energy level has been pushed to the extreme by the Baltimore-based trio. And it’s highly fitting, due to the meteoric rise in recognition of their wonderful live performances.

There’s a reason the band’s performance on Late Show with David Letterman garnered such a viral following, as Herring’s captivating, surreal movements and stage presence adds both weight and levity to the band’s compositions. Herring pours every ounce of his being into these performances, and the way it manifests itself takes any heavy-handedness out of the equation.

And this is music for us all to dance to. “Back in the Tall Grass” makes great use of a propulsive bass line, recalling the buoyancy of Modest Mouse’s “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.” “One step takes me home / Two steps back on my own,” he wearily sings, providing a certain depth to the proceedings. “Doves” and “Fall From Grace” are Herring’s vocal showcases, the latter in particular nearly bringing the record to its knees. Herring’s raspy vocals are fully charred here, as he goes from low snarl to cathartically screaming, “it was all inside of me,” with the hope that his screams will eradicate the things that bind him.

Four albums into their recording career, Future Islands have crafted the rare album that is as beautiful from far away as it is upon a closer inspection. The big picture is remarkable, but it’s the small details that shows Singles true stripes. What once was a relatively anonymous, nice-enough indie group is now on the brink of being indie music’s newest breakthrough act. And Future Islands have the singles to back it up.

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