Review: Future Islands — As Long As You Are

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 at 12:21 PM
Review: Future Islands — As Long As You Are by Teddy Rankin

Future Islands’ latest release, “As Long As You Are,” has a classic and undeniably mysterious tone. October is by far the spookiest month, however, the season has always been lacking in the soundtrack department. Halloween itself has classics like “Monster Mash” and the “Ghostbusters” theme, but there just hasn’t been much music that tonally matches this time of year while avoiding cheesiness. Although the lyrics are not intentionally scary, the ominous soundscape and gravelly vocals make “As Long As You Are” a must add to your October playlist.

The alternative pop group is based in Baltimore and gained notoriety following a 2014 live performance on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” Future Islands’ lead singer — Samuel T. Herring — displayed unparalleled energy and a unique voice that converted not only Letterman and “Late Show” bandleader Paul Shaffer to fans, but also many viewers at home.

The band’s first single from this record, “For Sure,” is a power-pop anthem that defines their M.O.: synths, driving bass and genuine vocals. Annunciating every syllable with punchy authenticity, Herring belts, “I will never keep you from just who you are.” 

If you’re wondering what Herring’s voice sounds like, the best way I can describe it is “wise Viking wizard.” You’ll have to listen (see below) to hear what I mean, but it is such a noticeable aspect of Future Islands’ music that it must be mentioned. A great demonstration of what he can do with that voice is shown near the end of “Born in a War.” The singer bellows a forceful scream before repeating the track’s refrain, “Look into a strong man’s eyes.”

On “City’s Face,” the group omits the drums for a deeply personal ballad. The song tells the story of how a romantic relationship can interfere with a person’s relationship to their city. Herring sings in the verse: “I believed for too long / What you did to me wasn’t wrong / I grew to hate you / And this place too.” Then, in the track’s thought-provoking chorus, the singer adds, “It's so strange / How a person can change / A city’s face.”

“As Long As You Are” is much less a collection of 11 songs, than a 45-minute experience that never lets up on the theatrics. This album is remarkably cohesive – no easy task. Future Islands switches up each song enough to keep it interesting while maintaining their tone throughout the record. The accompaniment is impressive and plays a vital role in setting the mood, but without Herring’s passionately frayed baritone vocals, this album would be far less appealing. 

Future Islands must have also been aware that their new album is a great match for this time of year. The band meets the moment while creating a simultaneously unique and accessible album that puts them in discussion for end-of-year awards.

Teddy Rankin is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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