Future Islands: People Who Aren’t There Anymore (4AD) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Future Islands

People Who Aren’t There Anymore


Jan 26, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

For what is essentially a synth-pop band, Future Islands sure deal in some wild and cathartic emotions, thanks to uber-expressive frontman Samuel T. Herring. His power and appeal are due largely to his impressive ability to, night after night, tear his heart out on stage, literally shed some tears, and get vulnerable.

But 2020’s As Long As You Are was striking because it was the band’s happiest album—Herring, newly in love, healing rather than chasing pain. The uplift felt like a revolution, a shot in the arm for Future Islands to begin exploring new shades. Well, in part due to pandemic-enforced separation, Herring is now single once more, with new dimensions of heartache to pour out on record—only this time, he’s doing it as a weathered expert. As a result, People Who Aren’t There Anymore feels like a new kind of Future Islands record, one that wants to balance pain and joy, gratitude and grief, showing how both sides of the coin are necessary for a full life.

Sonically, People Who Aren’t There Anymore manages the tricky task of blending all the styles of the band’s past into one career-encompassing album. It includes fiery synth-punk ragers (“Give Me the Ghost Back” sounds more Depeche Mode than anything Future Islands have ever done), Singles-esque off-kilter pop (“Say Goodbye,” “The Thief”), and some light, fizzy tunes that sound somehow adventurous and effortless (“The Tower,” “Peach”). Nothing here is necessarily a huge creative leap forward, but instead it all sees the quartet burrowing deep into their wheelhouse. It’s easily the most confident they’ve ever sounded. And that confidence plays back into the emotional lessons that suffuse the lyrics sheet, like in “Corner of My Eye”: “So I’ll just thank you / ‘Cause I can’t take you or make you / I just have to move on.” This feels like the kind of acceptance and letting go that can take 15 years and seven albums to achieve, and it’s wonderfully emotional to hear it all over this album.

People Who Aren’t There Anymore isn’t likely to attract swaths of new Future Islands fans, but it is a gift for those who have followed the band since Herring busted a move on Letterman almost a decade ago. It shows that Herring and company know exactly who they are and what they’re capable of, and that makes it a quietly exciting and gratifying chapter of a band who are clearly in this for the long haul. (www.future-islands.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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