2014 wasn’t a good year for me for music. It just seemed that everyone had an off-year that year, and there were many songs on my EOY list that weren’t all that spectacular in retrospect. But the more I keep looking, the more I think maybe 2014 wasn’t that bad, and there were quite a few gems I missed. Watermat’s “Bullit” and clipping.’s “Work Work” were a couple of songs I missed that would be high on that list if I were to re-do the list. But the best song I missed was from Future Islands, and that song was “Seasons (Waiting On You)”.
A couple of things turned me on to it, and one of them was their performance on David Letterman, which is one of the more fascinating performances I have seen on a late night show. To quote a YouTube comment to describe the performance, “Samuel Herring looks like someone's drama teacher who came in one day and was like GUYS WE'RE GONNA START A BAND AND WE'RE GONNA MAKE IT ON LOVE AND FREEDOM AND THE AMERICAN DREAM and his students were like "I guess"”, and really, I couldn’t describe it any better than that.
Unfortunately, though, lead singer Samuel T Herring said he was “hurt” by the reaction to the performance (http://www.nme.com/news/music/future-islands-10-1208541), which sucks, and even said he thought he was going to die from exhaustion because of how much work he was doing. While I enjoyed the performance, rest assured Mr Herring, the meaning of the song was not lost on me, and I certainly didn’t consider it a joke.
Overall though, I was happy I found something really good from 2014 that I can look back on fondly, even if I didn’t come across it until 2015. This sort of sweeping synth-pop has always been a style that has attracted me, and even with all the musical tools at my disposal, much to my disappointment, I can’t find a song sonically similar, or that captures the same feeling as that song does, at all.
So to avoid missing out on the next release of Future Islands, and hoping to hear something similar to “Seasons (Waiting On You)”, I followed them every way I could (within reason, of course ;P).
And right there, on the 7th April, 2017, there I was listening to the album. That may not sound like a particularly important day, but that was the day that Joey Badass, Father John Misty and Arca (and The Chainsmokers…) were all dropping high-profile releases. Kendrick Lamar even suggested he was dropping a new album on this date (which turned out to be a week later – P.S. I have listened to the album a couple of times now and hope to review it eventually). So in these musical circumstances, my intentness on listening to this new Future Islands album is pretty clear.
So how does this album stack up?
Well, I really liked the sound of the two lead-off singles (“Ran” and “Cave”), and they really captured a sound I was hoping they were going to continue with. I mean, even if you aren’t particularly observant, it was easy to notice that both of these songs had an incredibly similar structure, in that they both had simple, little keyboard or synth lead-ins, then that bass guitar would just pop in and then it would build from there.
And they sure continued with that sound alright. You could even say they continued on with this sound to the extent that it is pretty much how almost every song on this record plays out, and you could say that it becomes predictable.
But in saying that, I don’t really mind it at all. You may think that it hypocritical coming from me, considering that was one of my main criticisms of Ed Sheeran’s “÷”, which I published only a little over a week ago, but on this album, I find the song-writing to be a lot better and Samuel T Herring has a smooth voice that I love hearing. Also, the fact that I have been waiting to hear songs with this sound for over 2 years and that I’m a complete sucker for songs with this sound meant I was always going to really like it.
I will say that even though the album can get repetitive, they know how to hit their niche sound really well and hit the mark more often than not. It is just that the songs I had in my “FAV TRACKS” are the ones that had more of a spark to me than the other tracks.
As an absolute favourite for me, it has to be “Cave”. It just stands out to me, and may possibly be in my top 5 of the year so far.
“Candles” falls on the other side. It sounds like something that was deliberately made for slow-dances at proms and weddings, and since I generally have no interest in hearing that type of music, it’s my least favourite here. It certainly isn’t anywhere nearly as boring as the worst songs of this genre can get, but it isn’t one I’ll be listening to much in the “future” (#crappypunalert).
In the end though, I’m very pleased with this.
I’m already looking forward to the next one guys. Keep up the good work.
FAV TRACKS: TIME ON HER SIDE, RAN, CAVE, DAY GLOW FIRE
LEAST FAV TRACK: CANDLE