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Rockin' Our Turntable: Future Islands

By Michele Lenni in Arts & Entertainment on May 25, 2010 3:20PM


Let’s be honest, another hip and edgy, term defining a genre of music is exactly what we don’t need. Post-wave? Really? We have post-punk, post-rock, new wave, no wave, low-fi, glo-fi and now post-wave?

Lucky for us while it appears Future Islands has decided to define their sound using such a general -- and some may say pretentious -- term are really just a bunch of synth-pop music geeks from North Carolina. The band’s recent migration to Baltimore made them another appendage of the avant-garde Wham City Collective started by the ultimate music geek and prankster, Dan Deacon. Wham City prides itself on making music that rides a fine line between low-fi brilliance and sheer comedic, psychedelic fused pop.

With all of these whacked out elements in play, the end product is an anthem driven, gravely voiced, theatrical effort with its roots placed firmly in late ‘70s and early ‘80s synth pop icons like The Human League and Joy Division, but lyrically has a textured and idyllic storytelling element.

It’s impossible to talk about this band without mentioning the contributions of its members, specifically frontman Samuel T. Herring and synth player/composer, J. Gerritt Welmer. Herring seems more like a grumpy old codger than a young musician most of the time with his Tom Waites-esque melancholy vocal stylings and his constant tales of woe.

Though Herring’s lyrics are almost child-like in their simplicity, he always seems to draw is in with his trademark graveled groan and gut punching stories of anguish and affliction. “He says nothing seems the same, and I can't feel a thing, my body's like a wave, caving in on me.”

Herring, an obvious student of the late ‘70s and all things synth, has honed this trademark sound more on this record than the previous, bringing more of a clear tone and voice to the band’s sound.

Most songs have the same arch with a subdued beginning ending in a crash of synth and vocals. So it’s a formula; so what. The formula seems to work and the band’s music is more focused because of it. Though the record does have faults; that is exactly why we love it. Even though there is obvious dichotomy of a grizzled, scratchy voice against what some may see as an antiquated style of synth-pop; we love it for exactly those reasons. When Future Islands are at their most awkward is when they are the most interesting and definitely endearing.

Future Islands play Hideout on June 5