SAM SHIELD ’18
On April 7, Future Islands released their new album “The Far Field.”The band is best known for their 2014 release, “Singles”, however, they have been hard at work over the last several years. Lead vocalist and lyricist Samuel T. Herring, keyboardist Gerrit Welmers, and bassist/guitarist William Cashion have collaborated since 2006 to create some uniquely dramatic synth-pop. Spring 2017 has a ton big releases on deck, so “The Far Field” is only adding fuel to the fire.
“Ran,” the lead single off the album, features what is perhaps lead vocalist Samuel T. Herring’s best performance on “The Far Field”. During the chorus he fervidly sings, “On these roads, Out of love, so it goes, How it feels when we fall, when we fold, How we lose control, on these roads.” Herring did an exceptional job on the vocal harmonies on this track. For those that are familiar with his work, Herring has a unique delivery that draws its power from swinging, elastic crooning.
These harmonies are the icing on the cake and only serve to track more powerful than an average Future Islands work.
“North Star” is another song on album that really stands out. Gerrit Welmers, who handles the keyboards and drum machine programming for Future Islands, really shines on this track. “North Star” starts out with a soft and simple synth line. However, as it progresses the percussion takes a more prominent role. A danceable backbeat drives the song, while more intricate and syncopated percussive elements swell in an out as the song progresses. What makes all of the music on this album stand out among the many synth-heavy pop albums released this year is the unifying principle of danceability that makes each song lead into the next one. Each song on the album seems to be moving at breakneck speed, never running out of energy or taking a moment of refrain. That makes this music good for parties or a busy commute, and the fact that each song blends so nicely into the rest of the music makes the album all the more versatile.
The Far Field is a reflection on musical ideas and vibes from much older music, like the first wave of the Eighties, and early Electronic Dance Music. There is also a persistent summer feeling to the music on this album, however, and a strong sense of order and rhythm.
Bassist William Cashion also made some great contributions to the album. He really holds the low-end down on the tracks “Aladdin” and “Cave.” His tone is clear and crisp, but shows restraint. His parts display New Wave influence more solidly than the rest of the album. His work really helps to set Future Islands above most synth-pop bands.
Future Islands elected to not change up their sound much on “The Far Field.” Much of the album is composed of mid-tempo synth-pop ballads. The band is unique sonically; you can usually tell it is a Future Islands cut within the first several seconds. It would have been cool to hear the band incorporate some new elements into their music, such as different synth sounds, or new instruments. While it does sound similar to their past work, “The Far Field” is far from a formulaic composition. The album has excellent overall flow, Herring’s lyrics are well written, and the overall sense given off by the music is that it flaunts buoyant and airy instrumentals; music that will help you glide through the day.