futureislands

“People change, but some people never do.” So sings Sam Herring on ‘Seasons (Waiting on You)’, the lead single from Future Islands’ third album. Yes, edges soften, blemishes dissipate, but things stay the same – and though Future Islands have worked themselves into the sort of sonic shape that earned their recent move from Thrill Jockey to indie mainstay 4AD (alongside the likes of Grimes and The National) it’s abundantly clear, on ‘Singles’, that they still build their songs around one thing and one thing only – love.

It was over ten years ago Herring, William Cashion and Gerrit Welmers first started writing music together, and with every subsequent record – from the original unashamed theatrics of ‘In Evening Air’ – they’ve curbed Herring’s characteristic over-pronunciation, weaned themselves off lo-fi sounds, and become more skilful songwriters. Having recorded this latest LP out of their own pocket, then drafted in producer Chris Coady (who’s worked on everything from Foals to Beach House), the Maryland trio feel decidedly fresh and unusually confident – a band who believe every song here, according to a recent interview, is single-worthy.

Of course, what with Future Islands being hopeless romantics, you can’t help but eye up the double meaning of ‘Singles’, and the peachy lope of this LP (reminiscent of early Blood Orange or even less electronic slices of Metronomy at times) seems indicative not only of a sonic progression, but a more mature outlook on love, and a more subtle style of song writing. ‘Seasons (Waiting on You)’ is a love song, but a worldly one. ‘Light House’ is a bittersweet ode to lost romance. ‘Doves’ is a lilting synth-pop dream with Herring’s vocals somersaulting over the top, more evocative than anywhere else on the album as he croons: “Baby don’t hurt anymore.”

The peaks on ‘Singles’ are mighty lofty, then, but absent from troughs it is certainly not. ‘A Dream of You and Me’ is one of the wobbliest tracks here, and though it retains the imperturbable beach vibe of the rest of the LP, finds itself getting too sentimental and too broad in scope: “Beauty lies in every soul.”  Similarly, ‘Fall From Grace’ errs on the side of melodrama.

There’s a lot of infectious funk on ‘Singles’, and Herring as a vocalist can pull off soulful with palpable ease, but this LP still feels as though it’s one step away from Future Islands’ masterpiece.  As a sign of things to come, it’s an exciting record, but not all the tracks here hit the dizzy heights of the opening salvo – where Future Islands tread the line between laid back and wonderfully grandiose with the poise you’d expect of a band who’ve been plying their trade together for a decade.

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