Given the furore over Baltimore trio Future Islands, driven chiefly by the viral video of their recent performance on David Letterman’s Late Show, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were a band preparing to release their debút album, riding on the familiar wave of internet hype until they are consigned to the musty cave where Black Kids and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah remain trapped. Listen to Singles though and you’re made immediately aware that this is a band who have spent time honing their craft and perfecting their sound, and their fourth album is a glorious collection of soaring, uninhabited synth-pop gems for which Singles is the perfect title.
Opener ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ is as full of fist-pumping positive emotion as on the aforementioned David Letterman performance, painted from a palette of eighties pop (think The Lotus Flowers, New Order, A-Ha) and delivered with the unashamed passion of a Diamond Dallas Page or a Tony Robbins, something at a complete contrast to the typical unassuming, low-key disposition of your typical revivalists and it is testament to Samuel T. Herring’s genuine passion that at no point does it sound like a gimmick. Later, ‘Sun In The Morning’ sounds like two cult hits tacked on together, with its awkward switch between verse and chorus reminiscent of shadowy art-pop collective Lansing-Dreiden.
Throughout Singles there are few moments where your attention is allowed to wander before Herring jumps at you with a sweaty bear hug or throws a playful fist in your direction, but this lack of pacing and refusal to adhere to a structure is the main thing that prevents Singles from being any more than a very good “collection” of assorted hooks and ideas. The triumvirate of ‘Sun In The Morning’, the TV On The Radio circa Dear Science aping marriage of slap-bass and thick walls of synths of ‘Doves’ and ‘Back In The Tall Grass’, which sounds a little TOO much like Mortiis fronting New York ‘sissy-pop’ duo The Ballet, are all memorable, catchy tracks in their own right, but their ordering does more to take away from their charm than to add to it.
Yet this might just be why so many are falling for Future Islands. They are an instant thrill; their sounds grab you in a headlock and kiss you whilst rubbing a knuckle into your temple. Where many bands of a similar ilk spend so much time on schematics and layering Future Islands put it all out up front. So whilst Singles might not be an album you feel the need to dig into and spend time trying to get under the skin of, it will always be waiting for you with open arms and a toothy grin.