You’ve got to invest in the voice of singer Samuel T Herring to get the most from Future Islands. His gruff tones are like a theatrical beast, fronting the Baltimore group’s musical beauty.
Their last record, In The Evening Air, held a broken heart while dishing out darkened, electronic pop. On The Water, meanwhile, is a slower and more reflective piece.
Moments like the The Great Fire (a stunning duet with Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak) will genuinely touch you. The guitars and bass have an 80s Cure nostalgia, while the electronics bring waves of subtle melancholy. The voices ache for a time gone – it hurts.
With an 80s embrace the record still finds its own voice through Herring’s delivery – his confidence growing on each release. On the industrial electronics that push Balance onwards, Herring is as animated as ever. On Where I Found You he ably becomes narrator of ever-lasting love – pushing clever lines of persuasion: “Don’t let today push out the past.”
Each song is built with glowing synth-lines, steady rhythms, trebly bass and clear guitars. It rarely becomes edgy, instead opting for a smooth backdrop for Herring’s gravelled tones. This can mean those songs without a strong enough melody can fall by the wayside – closer Grease is one such moment. The gorgeous string-section fails to compensate for the wide-open spaces left between Herring’s words.
Still, Future Islands latest is, at times, a magnificent ode to love, time and despair, told via programmed electronics, retro guitars, and, of course, a very unique storyteller.