Future Islands believe in true love, you can tell that because their songs speak through our
lives. It’s as if their music has always been with us, soundtracking every great hope,
dawning realization and broken promise. Every fond embrace, each leap of faith. Over the
last eight years Baltimore’s most quixotic and emotionally involving trio have maintained
an admirable level of skill and pace, never slowing down for the corners. It’s vocalist Samuel
T. Herring, William Cashion (bass, guitars), and Gerrit Welmers (keyboards, programming,
guitars) who find themselves responsible. Their sound is at once beguiling and irresistible.
It’s one part melancholic, one part euphoric; full of animated bass lines, robust drum
machines and questing keyboards, all set off by Sam’s remarkably distinct, soaring vocal.
Future Islands came to life after all three members had served their tenure in the overtly
conceptual Art LordƬThe Self-Portraits,waggish band as comical as it was tender. With
Art Lord they found themselves inworld of borrowed gear and frenzied house parties,
spending endless hours booking tours in notebooks, burning CDRs in the van, xeroxing
sleeves. It’s the same DIY spirit that informs Future Islands to this day. Having toured
tirelessly since the band’s inception in Greenville, NC back in 2006, Future Islands have now
played in excess of 800 shows, often touring with their friends, most notably Dan Deacon,
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Talk Normal. Sam, William and Gerrit all hail from small
towns so they’ve made it their aim on tour to play as many off-the-radar places as possible.
It’s this dedicated groundwork that sets Future Islands apart from most, they’ve kept things
traditional, converting people on the road, putting the time in, making friends first then
fans. With each landmark album, they’ve been growing, loving, losing and leaving us
Returning with their new album ‘Singles’, Future Islands have refined their unique sound
further still. Having worked with Thrill Jockey and Upset The Rhythm previously, ‘Singles’
marks the start of their new relationship with legendary label 4AD,more fitting home is
hard to imagine. Chris Coady (known for his enduring work with Beach House, TV On The
Radio, Grizzly Bear) mixed and produced the album, leaving his luminous fingerprint across
the album’s radiant collection of pulse-grabbers and slow-burners. Packing an ever harder
punch, it makes fordeeply resonant listen; an affectionate hand on the shoulder. ‘Singles’,
the band’s fourth full length, isdecidedly polished sounding album, it’s glossy like
unapologetic pop, silken and lustrous, but check it’s pockets for the stockpile of realism.
‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ kicks off the record indecidedly jubilant yet soulful manner,
typical of the band’s most recent 7”s. It’s got all the passionate delivery and exuberance
you’ve come to expect from Future Islands, only there’snew found relaxed distance and
maturity at play. “People change, but some people never do” Sam wistfully calls out, fighting
the corner for each nagging doubt and irrepressible desire that won’t back down. Whilst the
song ebbs into hushed violin flurries and we’re left considering the grave of love, ‘Spirit’
leaps up, tumbling us over before chasing its descant deeper into the album. Future Islands
are perfectionists at teaming up some suitably yearning subject matter with an upbeat
musical response and ‘Spirit’, much like ‘Doves’ and ‘Light House’, isgood case in point.
‘Back In The Tall Grass’ ispropulsive tour de force of plucky bass and blushing synths,
testing the heaviest hearts intounited sway. “We’relong way from home, how did we get
here?” questions Sam languidly, his voice never before sounding so absorbed and lost in
thought, really lost, “four steps back and I’m gone” lost. ‘A Song For Our Grandfathers’
parades withself-assured splendour. “They said that ifstared the abyss would stare back
at me and sodid,” confesses Sam with the larynx oflonesome lion. Meanwhile, William’s
bass roots you to the spot, allowing the vivid touches of guitar and Gerrit’s efflorescent
keyboard waves to soak you through. It also seems likeparticularly poignant lyric for Sam
as he confronts personal ghosts and memories of feeling safe alike.
‘Singles’ isbold album of wandering reflections and haunted wonder, Sam’s wounded
howl on ‘Fall From Grace’ makes sure that much is clear. It’s an album that keeps running
from the off and keeps running fromrestlessness that threatens to consume. As the record
concludes in cascading delight with ‘A Dream Of You And Me’ your preconceptions of Future
Islands beingromantic band fade. Suddenly you realize they’re more enthralled by the
notions of romanticism and idealism that never fail to lead all hearts astray. Future Islands
have always been there, on the outside looking in. With ‘Singles’ they step inside us and
start looking out and it’sjoy to finally join them.
– Christopher Tipton
Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.