Count me as one of the many who discovered Future Islands on YouTube after witnessing their incredible performance of "Seasons (Waiting For You)" on Late Night With David Letterman. Crossing a line somewhere between Sinatra, Danzig, and Henry Rollins, I was blown away by Samuel T. Herring's ability to stray from the conventional on national television.
It's not everyday a singer goes on David Letterman and uses sadistic death growls during his performance. Herring's personality elevated Future Islands' notoriety as his animated expressions and dance moves drew listeners to explore the band further.
Future Islands latest LP Singles
manages to leave a lasting impression by maintaining the momentum of "Seasons." However, unlike that of the group's startling performance, the momentum of Singles
may have a slower build on its listeners. Somewhere between the mid-tempo rhythms and synthesized effects lies something intrinsically beautiful. The album is finely polished but not with overproduction. Singles
is layered to near perfection with musical effects and nuances that manage to sprinkle breathes of validity to the majority of tunes. The record doesn't stray away from songs with a slower pace, yet Herring's concentration creates a level of focus that manages to drown out the outside world and pull the listener into the musical atmosphere.
The second track, "Spirit," starts off with a synthesized melody reminiscent of the 1980 cult-classic Tron
score. When Herring barks, "Challenge you, Challenge you," over the futuristic background, it creates a sentimental moment where listeners enter his world of romantic loss. "A Song For Our Grandfathers" is another highlight as Herring's words are read with poetic sentiment. When he sings, "Grandfather watching over me," the instruments match the heaviness of the subject manner regarding his family's past. After two minutes have passed, an orchestrated bridge combining guitar effects, low-end bass lines, and synthesizers creates such a gorgeous melody that would rest comfortably in Hans Zimmer's repertoire.
The album's second masterpiece "Fall From Grace" creates a sense of sorrow when Herring reflects on his upbringing and its long-term effect on his decision making. When he says, "Now I'm older, turning white / Watching days turn into nights / Now I'm older and I'm grave / Tell me, what's been left to save?" a sudden rupture occurs as he unleashes a borderline death metal growl/high-pitched scream to convey his pain. Talk about opening the eyes wide and creating a holy shit
factor. In this case the scream is necessary form of expression. These deathly moans are gaining greater appreciation in the indie sphere, and Future Islands uses them appropriately to take their songs to unprecedented heights.
The songwriting displayed on Singles
is undoubtedly its crowning achievement. However, two tracks that fall somewhat flat are "Light House" and "Like A Moon," as they aren't as intrinsically creative or adventurous as their peers. The slower pace of both songs never builds into something radically memorable.
In music nowadays, maybe more than ever, most performers are encouraged to hold themselves back from showcasing real personality in their music. The industry encourages artists to chase this essential cool-factor that more or less leads to conformity, instead of individuality. Exploring sonically experimental sounds while spilling its heartfelt guts in the lyrics, Future Islands found beauty in the darkest places making Singles
an essential album to explore. Those who mistook the Letterman performance as nothing more than a viral sensation were severely mistaken as that performance only scratches the surface of what Future Islands has to offer.
is out now on 4AD. Get your copy here