Future Islands

The Far Field

4AD

Apr 07, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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No one in recent memory has crushed a late-night TV performance the way Future Islands did with "Seasons (Waiting on You)" on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2014, in support that year's album, Singles. The fact that anyone would remember a late night musical guest in the modern age, let alone three years later, is a testament to frontman Samuel T. Herring's raw power. Backed by keys, drums, and bass, he thumped his chest, danced in a way that could only be described as his own, and transmitted a feeling to living rooms and computer screens that's usually reserved for a live show. It felt genuine and yet practiced. It showed how good a band can be when it earns a place in the spotlight after years of relentless touring from the ground up. This is a group with a vision born from DIY shows and small club gigs, places where you have to give to the audience if you're going to get anything back.

All those years on the road weigh heavily on Herring's mind on the new Future Islands record, The Far Field. If the grind of the never-ending tour is the devil's payment for fame and fortune, Herring hasn't noticed. He doesn't focus on the dotted yellow lines receding past the rear window of a touring van, but on the mountain tops, forests, and grand formations of earth and sky that color the roadside. This grand tableau is used to frame songs about what's left behind, what might be rediscovered, and what's no longer there. Even the (many) heartbroken songs contain a notion of acceptance. These moments of closure arrive as he's simultaneously nostalgic and often optimistic. He sings, "We used to talk until the sun come up/We used to walk, we used to run/I packed my bags last night/I always pick the strangest ways to say, 'goodbye'/But I had to come and see that this had died/I had to look into your eyes." These are roadworn revelations from a bandleader following-up the biggest record of his life with another big statement. It's a record anchored by the same sounds as the breakthough: widescreen New Wave, Herring's dramatic and charismatic baritone and poetic lyricism. While there isn't a song as massive as "Seasons (Waiting on You)," Future Islands haven't plateaued; they've managed a follow-up record that can look their best work in the eye. (www.future-islands.com)

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