FUTURE ISLANDS are a new-wave dance band from North Carolina, now residing in the fertile "music capital of awesome", Baltimore. Future Islands play a terse yet passionate music wrought from a stripped back palette. Gerrit Welmers' cartwheeling synthesizer melodies tumble across the austere wilderness of William Cashion's post-punk bass pulse, driven ever forward by ecstatic electronic rhythms.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the band's sound however, takes shape in the form of Sam Herring's distinctive guttural vocal, delivered as Glen Danzig if he ever found himself in a Shakespearean tragedy. At times on its knees at others belted out like it's the end of the world, Herring's vocal lends a raw emotional warmth to the group's resolute synth-punk bounce.
Samuel, William and Gerrit had been writing songs together since 2003 in the guise of absurdist party project Art Lord & The Self Portraits, however it was with the arrival of Eric Murillo on drums that the band rid themselves of the mythology and masks, taking on a new motive and the name Future Islands. With the change their sound became exponentially faster and surprisingly powerful. They quickly wrote and recorded an EP entitled 'Little Advances' in time for their first tour late 2006 and haven't looked back since.
'TOMORROW' / 'THE FOUNTAIN'
UTR055 | 7" | Buy
This new 7" 'Tomorrow' / 'The Fountain' sees the band at the top of their game, releasing some of their most compelling and sophisticated songs yet, building on the aching themes and poignant focus of their last album 'On The Water'.
'Tomorrow' is a soulful swoon, its light tread is mesmerising amongst the slow burning synth cycles and relaxed bass progress. Samuel T. Herring's ever-impressive vocal has never sounded more akin to Sam Cooke as he smoothly laments "I'm saying sorry every time we talk" before careening into a flight of sustained, arguably uncontrollable emotion. Some choice, additional vocals from Jenn Wasner (of Wye Oak), Lexie Mountain and Elena Johnston only make the song seem more impassioned; its ardent nature perfectly rendered into melody.
'The Fountain' meanwhile is a luscious narrative sunk into a slow dance. It's a song that tells a tale of courtship, heady rush and leaps of faith. It's a beautifully descriptive lyric, full of "shady groves", "hanging gardens" and "human loam", nodding a head to both Genet and Rilke as it passes. "I know my lines, and there's a lot less space and a little bit of time... I know the way -- It's fine" sings Herring tenderly. Gerrit Welmers keyboard work here is stunning, the blooming chords and fluted air soaring across a landscape of crushed cymbals and quivering ambience, peaking with William Cashion's deeply expressive, echoing bass ascent.
'Tomorrow' / 'The Fountain' was recorded and produced with long-term collaborator Chester Endersby Gwazda and mastered by Sarah Register (Talk Normal). Tyler Weeks provides the liminal, colourscape cover and the vinyl is white and limited to 1000 copies worldwide.
'FEATHERS & HALLWAYS'
UTR027 | 7" | Buy
With this brand new double A-side single - their first material as a focussed three-piece - Future Islands allow us to glimpse some of the poetic grandeur and heartfelt melody that their forthcoming second album is readying. Fast becoming the most meaningful band of Wham City's offspring, Future Islands are masters of marrying upbeat songs with soul searching lyrical content and the 'Feathers & Hallways' 7" is their best example yet.
"The Happiness Of Bring Twice" is Sam's impression of what true love can be when left to instinct. Sometimes the emotions you feel won't make sense in your head and this track makes this a case in point. Clasping beats and a buoyant bass and synth interplay courtesy of Gerrit and William help set up the perfect backdrop for Sam's extraordinary vocal delivery, at once tender, then joyous, then wounded.
'Pinnochio' is as revelatory as it is regressive plunging into the hidden depths and memories of the protagonist in the song. It's a slow-burn track taking in a persistant bass motif and soaring keyboard line which builds to a air punching climax.
With "Feathers & Hallways" Future Islands prove that they guide us through our heart's darkest moments and greatest thrills forever and always.
'WAVE LIKE HOME'
UTR023 | Digipack CD | Buy
'Wave Like Home' was created in the summer of 2007, with the help of producer Chester Endersby Gwazda and successfully denotes the uplifting energy of the band's live shows, whilst still staying true to their 4-track hearts.
The record is a breathless testament to romance and grasping chances, forever enthralled to the optimism of trying again. It's a sincere and sometimes painfully honest record about chasing broken dreams and finding courage in a forsaken heart. An album infatuated with timescales like always and forever. From the broken elegy of woozy opener "Pangea" through the euphoric fun trips of "Old Friend" and the upbeat "Seize A Shark", the album never drifts far from reflection amongst it's highest highs.
For every throbbing track recalling breakneck pursuits there's a soulful reminder of the quieter side of a melodramatic heart. "Beach Foam" is glorious, swelling synth work perfectly capturing the crashing waves that incite such hungry philosophy in the song. "In these arms I can feel my home, breaking from inside" sings a desperate and forlorn Samuel on title track "Wave Like Home", "Save me from loving you always" he retorts on sober paean "Heart Grows Old".
For all the hope and regret felt across the album it is rather apt that final track "Little Dreamer" catches up with Future Islands at their most starry-eyed. Not even the chatter of birdsong can drown out the unabashed sweet sentiment of this closing song, so deeply consumed it holds a torch up into the darkness of the coldest corner of humanity.
'Wave Like Home' is a worthy debut album for Future Islands - perfectly capturing their bittersweet nature. To quote the band on this matter it's an album of "bright morning-times holding hands with dreary afternoons", like finding "shark-infested waters surrounding honeymoon beaches". We are never that far from fun or despair, valiantly Future Islands are here to remind us of that.