Future Islands: Singles [Album Review]

Gabriela Moore Web Content Contributor

There’s a really great Danny Brown interview where he said, when my dog was sick when I was kid, we had to give him his pills, but he wouldn’t take them so we would put the pill in a piece of cheese, and feed it to the dog. And he’s like that’s the way I do it with music. The lyrics, they may be funny, that’s what’s going to get people to listen, but then I can put a message inside of that, and convey something to them in a secret way. Put a message inside. And if we’re able to do that, then we’re doing our job. And that’s the hope, that you can move people’s hearts as well as their feet, and if you can do both, then, at least in what we do, that’s success for us, connecting with an audience. -Samuel T. Herring | Interview with Salon

‘Singles’ album cover

When given the task of writing an album review I jumped at the chance to write about Future Islands‘ latest album Singles, but quickly realized I may have taken on a task too large. How can anyone give enough credit to the astounding piece of art this album holds? Any lover of synth-pop and the like would melt at the first listen. Heck, any lover of music would! Front-man Samuel T. Herring has a way of telling his own story and somehow without realizing it, you turn it into your own. Maybe it’s the simple language he uses, the raw emotion in his voice, or maybe how the melodies drip with feeling; but Future Islands gives you a humbling opportunity to truly own the music you listen to. Pitchfork’s Jeremy D. Larson even remarks in his article that these songs “invite us to participate in Herring’s world, one shaped by geological heartbreak events and their epochal reflection periods, told with nothing more than the simple truth.” Created before signing to 4AD, Future Islands was able to write this album on their own, allowing creativity to flow. As they branched away from their traditional portable recording style, album producer Chris Coady introduced them to a studio that was renovated from a church in the 80s (Dreamland) in upstate New York. The raw feel of the studio allowed them to create the kind of album they could be proud of. Herring states in an interview with Sarah Gray from Salon “the main reason we’ve always stayed out of a studio proper is because a studio can be very clinical, and has rooms built to control sound. And our feeling is that sound should be blossoming. […] We realize with every album you need to push yourself to explore something new.” In the same interview, when asked about the song writing process Herring said it “starts with William and Gerrit playing around with sounds. They just bounce off each other. And I kind of sit in the corner and write, and just feel what they’re giving me. They’re putting the sounds, I’m writing words. […] We want it to be uncomplicated because we’re uncomplicated people. We’re not trained musicians. We’re all art-school kids who started making music and fell in love with it. So instead of playing with the musical side of things, we play more with the emotional side of things that drew us to music.” Now when I look at it, the task may not be so huge if follow in Future Islands’ footsteps and simply tell the story. So, with an open heart and feet ready to move, turn up your speakers and listen to ‘Singles’. (Preferably in the order the album is set, you’ll thank me later.)

Oh, and maybe watch this live concert in Washington, D.C. from a NPR Music live video webstream featuring old and new songs alike. You can’t fully experience Future Islands without watching them perform live.

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