future islands

Album Review: On the Water - Future Islands

Last year's Future Islands album was a pleasant surprise - an early highlight from a new band unknown to me up until that point. On the Water is Future Islands' third album and it pretty much plays its cards just right.

As a band I'm surprised that Future Islands haven't had more success. Their blend of shoe-gazing fuzzy indie and 80s synths is undeniably very 'now'. And whilst singer Samuel T. Herring's vocals are deliberately abrasive this isn't an inaccessible band. Perhaps this fact hasn't escaped their notice either, as On the Water definitely feels like a play for the mainstream, as demonstrated by first single 'Balance', which recalls the Cure's ability to combine melody with angst.

Whilst On the Water's Future Islands have a rounder sound they start off by almost sinking. Compared to In Evening Air's kick start of 'Walking Through That Door' the opening title track here falls a little flat. It is all noise but with little to say and far too slow to not be saying anything at all. In comparison the duet of 'The Great Fire', with Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner, shows this is a band capable of applying softness amidst a raw aggression.

It is the latter portion of the album that really wins me over however. 'Where I Found You' is gorgeous synth pop with what could almost be a heartbeat for a rhythm. Appropriate for a song that wears its heart on its sleeve so proudly. 'Give Us the Wind' is even greater - a song that starts softly, as if to trick the listener this isn't a race, before breaking into soaring vocals that feel like the aural equivalent of a heavy foot on the accelerator as you fly into the corner.

When On the Water comes together it has some moments that outshine the best bits on Future Islands' last album. It may not have the impact I felt upon hearing In Morning Air, but that is probably just because I knew more of what to expect. Future Islands continue far more than much bigger bands.

BP x

On the Water is out tomorrow on Thrill Jockey, available from Amazon.co.uk on CD and LP [affiliate links].

EP Review: Undressed - Future Islands

Future Islands' debut album continues to be one of BlackPlastic's favourite releases of 2010. On the eve of their UK tour they release their Undressed EP - a selection of acoustic versions of songs (two of which come from the album In Evening Air) recorded for their hometown radio station WYPR.

Acoustic versions can be hit or miss - surprisingly Future Islands' material establishes a whole new level of maligned frustration stripped of the places to hide that its conventional production provides. The new versions of existing songs - 'An Apology' and 'Long Flight' - shine with a new found naked ugliness.

This is music doused in regret. 'Long Flight', already one of In Evening Air's highlights, shuffles back and forth whilst singer Sam Herring becomes increasingly meek and desperate, with the piano and string accompaniment encircling him like a pack of vultures.

The two non-album tracks are even better. Opener 'In The Fall' is heavy and downtrodden, with Herring's vocals more forceful and at home than they sound on the existing material. Closing track 'Little Dreamer' fittingly takes an opposite tack - the drums are as heavy as 'In The Fall' but the song itself feels as though it has been made of glass, a delicate and fragile piece that barely survives the attention it receives from the listener over the course of its three-minute duration.

On the back of the impressive In Evening Air, Undressed is proof enough that Future Islands boast bags of promise.

BP x

Undressed is released on Thrill Jockey on 20 September.



Wed 29 Sep London, UK CAMP Basement

Thu 30 Sep Brighton, UK Freebutt

Fri 1 Oct Manchester, UK Islington Mill

Sat 2 Oct Glasgow, UK Cry Parrot

Sun 3 Oct Leeds, UK The Library

Wed 20 Oct Dublin, Ireland Workman's Club

Album Review: In Evening Air - Future Islands

In Evening Air is Future Islands' first release for Thrill Jockey and their first album to be released as a slimmed down three-piece.

Opening with 'Walking Through That Door' In Evening Air is a captivating listen from the off. It is an album with a beautiful dream-like quality that manages to take disparate reference points and brings them together beautifully.

The vocals alternate between gravelly Dylan ('Long Flight') and statuesque Bowie ("Swept Aside"). And that isn't all - In Evening Air is in turns ethereal (on the title track - think David Lynch and Twin Peaks) and youthful and overwhelmed (reminiscent of Sofia Coppola on the beautiful "Long Flight").

There are clear nods to on In Evening Air to post-punk, particularly Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen, and the electronics and emotional punch are pure New Wave. It's little surprise then that Future Islands refer to their own sound as Post-Wave.

But In Evening Air is more than the sum of its parts though. Future Islands sound urgent and insistent and, frankly, desperately delicate. There is so much to soak in across this album's short length that it already feels like an early high-water mark for the year.  Seek it out.

BP x

In Evening Air is released on 4 May on Thrill Jockey, available for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk [affiliate link].