Us bloggies like to depreciate the influence of the old boob tube and exaggerate that of the www, but seeing how a single performance on network TV can still break and make an act, makes it hard to deny the real balance of power. Remember how Lana del Rey was diverted from the short track toward stardom by a monstrous performance on SNL in 2012 and see how only seven weeks ago the network debut by Baltimore’s Future Islands on Letterman brought them more attention than eigth years touring and recording put together. The wayward showmanship of singer Samuel T. Herring in particular spawned a flurry of memes. Herring combines the countenance of a young Steve Marin and the posture of Ricky Gervais with the moves of Michael Stipe and the severity of Morrissey. Going on this description you might expect him to sound like a singing comedian, but instead his unorthodox vocal stylings have been poignantly described as ‘shifting seamlessly from a smooth croon to the kind of guttural growl usually reserved for death-metal frontmen.’ It’s a required taste, but one you will be extra motivated to require once you hear the outstanding level of songwriting on Future Islands’ fourth album, titled Singles. One of the most remarkable albums of 2014 so far.
Future Islands are a synthpop group, but the way they make their keyboards sound like guitars combined with Herring’s affected singing echo a variety of over-the-top genres, from Glam Rock to Schlagermusic, from Europop to blue-eyed soul. Singles sounds like an era when men with the looks of Phil Collins and Mark Knopfler could become pop star based on their musical qualities. As 80s retro goes it’s not a particularly innovative sound, acts like Twin Shadow and Blood Orange amongst others draw from the same new wave keg, but the twist given to it by Future Islands is considerably more poppy. If not every song on Singles lives up to the album title then certainly half of them could. From the actual single and Letterman break-through song Seasons, with its Elton Johnish theme, via the catchy indie disco hooks of Doves and In The Tall Grass which wouldn’t be out-of-place on albums by Foster The People or Haim, to the Indie Electronic grace of closing song A Dream Of You And Me, which has the feel of Empire Of The Sun. Herring is at his most convincing, however, on power ballads like A Song For Our Grandfathers and Like The Moon, which make him sound strangely European, with even the suggestion of an unaccountable accent. It once again resonates the influence of the european 80s band that shockingly receives the most tags on this site and you know who I’m modern talking about.
Okay, it’s very unFuzzlike to embed a video that’s been seen more than 1,3 million times, but you just can’t afford to miss out on the band’s Late Night performance. Future Islands will perform during Leguesswho festival in Utrecht on the 24th of May