Sunday, October 2, 2011

Future Islands- On The Water Album Review ::: "Future Islands harkens back to the pure romantic movement..."

Like a movie soundtrack, On the Water fades in on top of sounds reminiscent of clattering dishes or seaside wind chimes. It is a brilliant aural device that pulls you into the song like a camera tracking in to a scene. By the time Sam Herring voice growls above the fray of dark synths, a solid churning bass and drums with lines like, "I'll shield you like a candle" and "can't I be the one who saves your life" - the song is in full tilt over the top melodrama. Future Islands harkens back to the pure romantic movement in the 80's when synths ruled the day and bands all sung with British accents even if they were from Alabama. Herring unabashedly massages his tortured lyrics at almost every turn and his voice is integral to what Future Islands is creating.

As Bowie was as much a performance artist as a rock and roll singer, a voice like Herrings creates a hyper sense of reality raising these songs into that same kind of realm. They feel like dramatic passion plays. "The Great Fire" sung as a male / female duet could be a Roxette song but with Herring's lion like growl plays like a mini opera. In the end, it is beautiful as it is conceptual.  In "Where I found You" Herring tones down his vocal performance with great effect. While his steel plated vocals sound majestic and grand they can also sound incredibly sad and introspective.

"Give Us the Wind" is a stadium burner of a song and I could see a million strong holding up their cell phones (with lighters emblazoned on them of course).  "Close to None" with it's building choral church synths soon erupts into a powerful beat drawing memories of New Order and Depeche Mode. The chunky bass line and drum beat work off Herrings vocal so well. The tempo and dense production tames his beast a bit- this is also the case on "Balance" which cooks along like a LA rave party.

As in the beginning, ambient sounds of seaside life and churning water inhabit "Tybee Island" as Herring sounds like he is singing to himself.  It is a nice departure that again reminds you that "On the Water" is a performance piece as does "Grease" which is the final track. It is a wonderfully wrought ballad that seems to end to quickly fading out and leaving us with the same ambient sounds On the Water began with. Alas, every movie has to end.

Robb Donker

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