Future Islands: As Long As You Are (4AD) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, January 24th, 2021  

Future Islands

As Long As You Are


Nov 02, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Can you have too much of a good thing? Future Islands presumably don’t think so, judging by their 10+ years as America’s most predictably consistent band. Over the last decade, frontman Samuel T Herring and his bandmates developed a distinctive brand of wistful synthpop that took them from obscurity to international acclaim without compromise. The band’s consistency has been one of their greatest strength—if you liked their breakout hit “Seasons (Waiting On You),” there was much more to get stuck into—but 2017’s The Far Field felt like a dead end; a band retracing their past steps with diminishing returns. 

Their sixth record, As Long As You Are, is therefore billed by the band as a reset, embracing domestic bliss and a more comfortable, peaceful existence. It is certainly a more dynamic record than its predecessor and one that spends less time chasing former glories, while also coming closer to those heights than before. Herring has admitted to feeling burned out after his band’s shock rise to national attention (off the back of that Letterman performance) and As Long As You Are is the sound of them coming back to Earth—subdued, wiser, and more at ease with themselves.

The softer touch of these songs is demonstrated most effectively on two bare tracks, “Thrill” and “Moonlight,” which see Herring lean into his blue-eyed soul singer persona—acting as part-preacher and part-confessor. “Nobody gonna pick me up/I’m falling down,” he croons on the former’s chorus, before settling on a desperate and moving closing refrain (“Keep rising”). These quieter moments allow space for the more typical material to shine through, with the surging rock single “For Sure” ranking among the band’s very best work.

Yet, while As Long As You Are moves with more purpose than its predecessor, it’s hard to escape the feeling that something is lacking here. The subdued mood leaves some songs (such as the opener “Glada” and “City’s Face”) feeling languid and thin, while other upbeat tracks feel like lightweight versions of songs on their past records. As Long As You Are certainly lacks the fine-tuned consistency of 2014’s Singles and Herring’s vocal performances have grown less erratic and surprising over time, losing some of the novelty of the band’s earlier work. For hardcore fans, it will likely be enough to know that Herring and co. are in a better state of mind, but more casual listeners may be looking for a little bit more adventure. (www.future-islands.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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