Future Islands – The Far Field Review 


Future Islands – The Far Field

Pre-Letterman performance, the Future Islands were a little known clan with three albums of floaty synth pop under their belt. One iconic, soon-to-be-viral performance later, and the Baltimore trio completely explode. Seasons (Waiting On You) went on to become the ‘best song of 2014’ for several media networks like Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound, just one song from Singles – the album that landed them in the top 40 in both America and the UK. They now had to tackle an album to tail their breakthrough tracklist, resulting in the unflustered synth pop force of The Far Field.

Huge success doesn’t seem to have withered Future Islands’ winning formula of synth-heavy backing tracks. The ghostly aura that wavers in the background of Aladdin is launched by the synths, while they bolster the hurtling percussion in Ran, only to emphasise the song’s speed, which ties perfectly into the title of the song. Having said that, William Cashion plays a large part in The Fair Field, with prickles of bass playing the starring role in tracks such as Cave, Through the Roses and Black Rose. Though their musical style hasn’t faltered, the pressure of their recent achievement looms in the lyrics. Through the Roses has been described by frontman Samuel Herring as “a suicide song”, the theme of loneliness taking its fateful grip on this forlorn number, despite Herring having “reached all of [his] goals”. In the midst of the robotic notions – especially strong in the likes of North Star, Time On Her Side and Candles – it is this emotive highpoint that gives the album soul and vigour– not, as I first figured, the constant wrath of lively synths, which actually loses its gusto towards the end of the album. Each song begins with a new electro shading, but the similar feel of each introduction keeps the album tight and flowing. The similar tempos of each song could either be interpreted in the same vein, keeping to its great flow, with the sprightly momentum making it a great soundtrack to any road-trip movie, or a little tiresome too.

There’s no denying Herring is a spectacular vocalist. His silvery crooning works wonders against the mechanical backdrops, not only providing the album’s greatest asset, but also arguably the strongest element of Future Islands’ whole repertoire. The passion that it decorates each track with, and is evident in the performances such as the striking Letterman one, is what has truly got the band to where they are now. Extra beautiful vocals come to fruition in Shadows, which features Debbie Harry’s vocal expertise. Their warbles are a fantastic match.

In this dynamic uniting of sublime synth and folky trill, Future Islands have put forward a pretty impressive successor to Singles. Expressive both instrumentally and lyrically, sung with deep and recognisable feeling, The Far Field is sound in every way, but it is something that, despite Debbie Harry’s brilliant intervening, cannot be revitalised in its unchanging direction.

Future islands – The Far Field: 7/10

Eleanor Chivers

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