“There is no great genius without some touch of madness.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
It’s been a goddamn year since the release of the ambitiously titled “Singles” by a band whose genius is paralleled only by the likes of The Hives, Suuns, Perfume Genius, etc to name but a few.
I decided a while ago that I’m only going to be reviewing the music I like, and to hell with the rest of the shit out there. So, it’s taken me a year, and a long agonizing year it has been. I’ve been forced to sit around and deal with the fact that there are still people out there who don’t know who Future Islands are, and what Samuel T Herring is capable of. And to that I say… Fuck. That.
Introducing Samuel T Herring, and the rest of the band (They’re the other guys standing around in the back too fucking terrified to move)
I hope you’ve now watched that video clip as much as I have. I may even be responsible for half the hits. That’s how much I love it. I love it too much to be normal, and I don’t mean the love you have for the first girl who let you put your hand down her bra in primary school. I mean I love it like the first girl you accidentally murdered by smothering and had to weigh her body down with rocks down by the river.
At about 1:05 minutes in, you can expect Herring to look up at the crowd and into the camera. He’s looking at each and every one of us, and he’s looking for somebody who can get it. He’s looking for somebody out there, anybody, to feel.
At 1:45 Herring is begging us, he’s begging us to understand, he’s begging us to change.
At 3:10 expect to see Herring stop giving a single fuck about what anybody thinks. Because he’s just delivered a performance on the David Letterman show that people will be talking about forever. He’s just delivered a knock-out blow to how people expect music to be made. He’s just changed the game.
You get the feeling that Future Islands had been stranded in the LAST CHANCE SALOON for too long. Singles is an album overwrought with emotion, an album so good that only the most hardened of hearts can resist it. The band rip through it with such power and vigor that you get the feeling they knew. They knew this might be their last ticket out of the tall grass.
They remind me of The Killers, when Brandon Flowers still gave a shit about what he was doing. They are what Collective Soul would sound like if Ed Roland used a synthesizer on goddamn everything.
They’re swinging from the fences with this one… And connecting. Take nothing away from the underground group of Baltimore weirdos backing Herring up. The match him moment for moment, whipping up a stirring synth-pop writ in bold emotional colours. Herring grinds gears in his throat, bending his knees, waving his arms around as if he’s conducting a choir of giants. His barking mad, growling passion careens wildly. He roars and bellows and pushes his vocals into truly discomforting territory, and this has long been a deterrent for would-be Future Islands fans. Sure, the man might be fit for a straight jacket, or perhaps the truth we’re all too afraid to admit is that he might be a lot more human than we are.
I recently wrote in the novel I am working on – that there is something in the melancholy baying of nature that nudges us all to wakefulness. The call of the night geese, the floating guards – or the soul-shaking howl of the wolf – there is a savage kind of loneliness in it all. A longing for that forgotten sense of connection. They call to one another in many strange tones, songs of the soul, a language of bells – tolling far into the darkness. We don’t know what any of it means, but we know that it provokes in us a primordial answer. Our hearts know the pain of our species exclusion from the rest. We’re too unreliable to be a part of that secret. We all speak too much and listen too little.
Like a Jekyll and Hyde on the mic, Herring speaks to us as both an evangelical preacher and a lunatic. Get past the weirdness of it all and you’ll find his performance a soul-jolting cry from the very edge of what it is to be human. Singles is more than music. It’s art. It’s the answer we have in our hearts, but we’re too tongue-tied and inarticulate to spit it out. An appropriate title. Singles. It may be the Greatest Hits of their lives. It may be the best they can give, and the best any of us will hear in a long time.
SCORE : 4/5
If Singles doesn’t get Future Islands sky-rocketing face-first into stardom then I just don’t know what will. I get the feeling though, that nothing would change if it did. This band is ready for it, they’re ready for anything, but it isn’t what they’re about. They’re all about the message, and they just need for us to listen.
BEST TRACK : I’ve never been one to go with the grain. I despise conformity and I don’t listen to the motherfuckin’ radio. For this reason alone I was tempted to go with “A song for our grandfathers” or “back in the tall grass” – the latter of which I’m giving away for free here:
But the absolutely astonishing power that is “Seasons (Waiting on you)” is simply too hard to ignore. The opening track of the album shows us exactly what we’re in for from the get go. This is “sad lyrics to happy music” done like we’ve never heard before. When Herring bellows “As it breaks / Summer awaits / But the Winter craves what was lost / Craves what has gone / Gone away” it’s enough to make your heart implode.
Named the number 1 best track of 2014 by publications such as NME, PITCHFORK MEDIA and SPIN – and coming into the top 10 of countless others has to say something.