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.