ALBU|M OF THE WEEK
As many will be aware, Future Islands somewhat broke the internet with their 2014 Letterman appearance – specifically with vocalist Samuel T. Herring’s infectiously charismatic stage presence. With that performance, the band even baffled Glaswegian comic and James Corden despiser Brian Limond (“When I first saw them… I was worried for the cunt!” he famously declared on his Twitch channel) . And like Limmy, I’ve found it difficult to gauge whether Future Islands are the real deal or a kind of contemporary Spinal Tap. Having dug a little deeper into the band’s history with their new album People Who Aren’t There Anymore as my soundtrack, I’m still a little dumbfounded.
Contrary to how the album sounds, as it turns out, this record is in fact a set of very unlikely breakup anthems, all profoundly self-reflective. ‘The Tower’ is clearly a standout track for me with themes of grief and rebirth perfectly expressed through Herring’s crooning vocal hooks. Although set in New York, ‘King Of Sweden’ refers to Herring’s time spent living in Sweden, trapped in a broken relationship which he is determined to fix. There is this feeling of displacement running through this album which can only be grounded by Future Islands’ astonishingly tight rhythm section (William Cashion and Michael Lowry) coupled by the band’s iconic melodies indebted to keys/synth player Gerrit Welmers.
This is the first Future Islands record which really encapsulates their live energy and vocal unpredictability. I’d even go so far to say that it is only with People Who Aren’t There Anymore that we can fully understand the identity behind a group who have been playing for an astonishing 17 years. Whilst I may have previously dismissed Herring’s inflection as overly enigmatic, it’s clear that his voice is authentically wrestling with some of the most overbearing emotions. As he metaphorises in ‘Give Me The Ghost Back’, “I’m just an animal that strains against my line. I push and pull the cord, to make me feel alive.”