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Future Islands delivers great summer album

By Ellie Hudd
On March 26, 2014

Winter may be lingering beyond its welcome here in Storrs, but Future Islands seems intent on carrying their listeners into the summer with a synth and a guitar.
"Singles," the group's fourth album, is not a collection of singles, but a 10-track album. The group has been performing electro-pop since 2003 and achieved a modicum of success with their recent album.
The first song off the album, "Seasons (Waiting on You)," which the band recently performed on "The Tonight Show with David Letterman," definitely set the tone for the album. The track began on a warm 80's-esque synth and crashed into heavier alt-rock guitars.
The second song, "Spirit," delved into darker synths, while "Sun in the Morning" featured smooth layers of horns that nicely complemented the chorus. "Doves" was quite a mixed bag-I wanted to get lost in the rich, layered synths of the chorus, which channeled a definitely more urban vibe than the previous tracks, but there were many moments when the vocals were simply overdone.
"A Song for Our Grandfathers" was one such case-the relaxed vibe of its languid pace and swelling synths was impaired by the aggressiveness of the vocals. "Light House," on the other hand, was a clear highlight-Herring was mostly able to rein in his emphatic, choppy vocal delivery to allow the vocals to perfectly complement the instrumental. "Like the Moon" was another great track, as Herring was again able to effectively channel the raw strength of his vocals - this time into the emotion of the song.
While the overall album was a bit much for me, this track is a definite must-download for summer night drives. "A Dream of You and Me" brought the album out on an upbeat yet relaxing note, as the guitars set a good pace in the background while synths washed over the track like the ocean on the album's cover.
Perhaps both a good and bad characteristic of their music, Future Islands places a definite emphasis on lead vocalist Samuel T. Herring. Though Herring's voice has a dark, rugged quality that fits well with the pace and aura of the band's music, the unique and distinct accent of his singing voice is very clearly affected, which can be quite distracting. He seems almost to be channeling other vocalists in the genre-Duran Duran's Jeff Thomas, Charlie and Craig Reed of the Proclaimers and even Alex Clare come to mind-rather than relying on his own talent. Furthermore, he seems unable to manage the raw aggression of his vocals. "Fall from Grace," for example, which features arguably the best instrumental on the album, is brought to a screeching halt before each chorus by a primal scream from Herring; while the intended effect was likely a contrast with the muted chorus, the scream is just way too much.
If you're looking for a modern band with the clear influences of Duran Duran circa "A View to Kill," Depeche Mode and Phil Collins and an alternatively beachy and urban vibe, New Order, Future Islands is for you. Perhaps those who have exhausted these artists, or are looking for a fresh take on one of these artists, will enjoy Future Islands.
Though the band adds arguably little at the intersection of these three artists' respective work, their sound perfectly encapsulates an 80's summer vibe and would, again, fit well on a summer evening drive. Future Islands' main issue is that the places they would fit - on the beach, in the car on the way to the beach, or perhaps a bar, under the right circumstances - are not places where the music on the stereo plays front and center. Are they worth seeking out, for the right listener? Certainly. And do they ultimately make an enjoyable listen, if their music happens to be playing? Definitely.

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