steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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Future Islands

"In Evening Air" CD

Thrill Jockey

Genre: indie rock

Baltimore, MD

April 2010

Vocals are an oft-neglected commodity on the independent scene. Amidst angular guitar histrionics and spasmodic rhythm sections, singers typically need only avoid sticking out for bad reasons, often deftly attempting to traipse the line between singing and talking. Those folks with unique vocal styles often get pegged as eccentrics (Joanna Newsom, Stephin Merritt, Scott Walker). Well, Future Islands' Samuel T. Herring certainly boasts a distinctive set of chops, coming off as something like Dave Gahan's new wave baritone crossed with the growl of Get A Life's Gus Borden. It's a shock at first, admittedly, but one gradually becomes enamoured with Herring's powerful voice, itself a perfect match for the band's juicy mash of turgid, post-punk basslines and whirring synths.

The first truly sublime moment on In Evening Air comes in the form of “Tin Man,” which matches an infectious steel drum part with a propulsive beat and a base of bass shards. Here Herring' grumbly vocals are a gruff counterpoint to the shimmering tunefulness of the steel pans, resulting in an unabashedly infectious slice of otherworldly pop. It may be In Evening Air's most delectably original moment. Other songs are more accurate replicas of eighties new wave fare. Brilliant “Inch of Dust” employs a glittery synthesizer melody which might have been ripped from one of Tears For Fears' incremental love songs, replete with a tick-tocking subrhythm for added flair. Meanwhile, “Walking Through That Door” and “Vireo's Eye” are prime examples of dark, vaguely gothic post-punk, brandishing links to Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And one can't neglect to mention the momentous “Swept Inside,” itself Future Islands' best shot at indie immortality. Here William Cashion's ropey bass guitar carves out a foot-moving stomp, above which J. Gerrit Welmers' starry haze of keys and Herring's vocals power out a mesmerizing collision of the Psychedelic Furs, Beat Happening, Interpol, and, of course, good ol' Joy Div.

Ultimately, Future Islands have prepared a solid statement with their Thrill Jockey debut. Following a trail of vinyl releases on smaller labels, as well as several self-released CDRs, the trio have produced a polished and, above all, distinctive album with In Evening Air. Even at its relative low points, this album's songs never truly disappoint, consistently shining through as engaging feats of melody and mood.

future islands' myspace

"Swept Inside":

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 9 tracks, distributed by the label, released May 4, 2010]