After stumbling upon Future Island’s 2010 effort In Evening Air only 48 hours ago, I already have realized it belongs among the Errata of my ‘Best of 2010’ list.
What prompted this investigation was hearing so much buzz in the music blog circuit about Future Islands, culminating with the post over at my new favorite blog, The Wounded Jukebox. So I figured I might as well look into it and pulled up Future Islands on Spotify (which I should probably do a post on in and of itself; suffice to say it is useful as hell).
In Evening Air had me captivated in only a few mintues. It’s been said countless times, but merits repeating: the utterly bizarre timbre of Samuel T. Herring’s voice is captivating to say the least. Apparently the group also kills live, but I’ll need to get back to you on that. The most accessible, and thus far my favorite, track of the album is ‘Tin Man‘.
Opening with the whimsical electronic marimba, the percussion is sparing and synthetic, but that’s because most of the rhythm comes from the synthesizers and the bass (though for the life of me I can’t really say which is which). On the first few listens, the lyrics are damn near indecipherable, and initially that’s fine because the pure emotion behind the track is more than enough to carry it.
After a few listens though, along with a peak at the liner notes, reveals a lyrical styling that seems as wise as it does cryptic:
And time – goes by
And you’ve got a lot to learn, in your life
And the heart’s not inside
And I’ve got to find the one that’s just right
The title track is a minute-long interlude of a sparse melody whose echoes seem to bounce of the walls, and the placement of which marks a nice halfway point in the album.
One thing I’ve noted about almost all the tracks is that even if they aren’t aggressive, punchy numbers, nothing’s really all that slow. I really appreciate that, because I seldom care for tracks by synth-heavy bands that assume a slow track instantly grants them a certain automatic degree of emotional gravitas.
Future Islands provides a spectrum of tunes that vary in tone but not in intensity; tracks that sacrifice pace more than make up for it in depth. It’s this attribute that provides the glue that really holds the record together.
My second favorite track is the opener, ‘Walking Through the Door’, whose closing stanza of
And I’ll hold your hand- as I walk you through that door
And I’ll hold your hand as you held my hand as I walk you through the door
Is executed so well that I won’t even ruin it for you here. Find the track and listen to it and love it.
The last thing I want to share today is one of the later tracks, titled ‘Vireo’a Eye‘. What struck me about this song was how completely forlorn it’s message is despite being housed in a no-nonsense synth-pop framework.
The bass line is unrelenting, propelling you through the narrative, with the vocals cresting at the chorus, lamenting
We, we’re not kings here.
We’re not kings here.
We’re just strangers.
There’s nothing frilly to it, but it has a pure, almost refined quality to it. Along with that, it’s a melancholy tune with such a catchy beat that I can’t help but find it one of the most interesting of the batch.
By my reckoning, Future Islands still owes their highest highs to New Order and that band’s immediate contemporaries and progeny. That said, the road taken to get to those places is entirely new and worthwhile unto itself, making this album a must for anyone remotely interested in that flavor of “post-wave” or whatever we’ve decided to call it.
I’m excited to spend more time with In Evening Air as well as On The Water when it drops later in October, something I have no doubt will be discussed here in due time as well.