Over the last decade-and-a-bit, Baltimore-based synthpop band Future Islands have built their sound around the feeling of being lost at sea. References to open water flood their first five albums, paired with disorientating synths that scramble sonic compasses and soul-baring lyrics writ large across the rippling waves, desperately yearning for terra firma. Those Future Islands were filled with sirens, luring the band ever onwards. Always searching, never finding.
It is therefore with intrigue and a little trepidation that we approach the quartet’s sixth album, As Long as You Are, a record that comes bathed in self-proclaimed stability, harmony and happiness for vocalist Samuel T. Herring and the rest of the band. The group even took control of their destination, co-producing for the first time. With Future Islands captain of the ship, how do they sound? Actually, remarkably good.
This is a marvellously-produced album that jumps out of the speakers, brimming with confidence and dripping with arena-sized existential anthems. Right out the gates, Herring’s trademark operatic lungs are noticeably more contemplative and clear, soaring across the album, punctuating every song with import. Tracks like ‘Thrill’, a uniquely Future Islands ballad to the sea, connect more potently with the vocals foregrounded and turned way up.
With the spotlight on them, Herring’s poetic, celestial musings are brilliantly lucid and lined with a welcome drop of vulnerable optimism, captured best by a line in the Cure-like ‘Moonlight’ where Herring proclaims, “Here’s my heart / Don’t break it.”
To counterbalance the focus on vocals, the layers and complexity of synths and strings are reined in, with the average BPM drastically reduced. The result is that Future Islands sound more polished and dynamic than ever, with new addition, drummer Mike Lowry, working as an incredibly effective ballast.
Songs are able to breathe, with new introspective sounds developing and blossoming, such as the plaintive middle-section of ‘I Knew You’ and the simple, ricocheting beat of album closer ‘Hit The Coast’. As Long as You Are is the rejuvenated sound of a band who finally found what they are looking for. Dive in.
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