It takes real guts to name your album “Singles.” Few bands have produced an album so packed with perfect pop songs that it could be confused with a greatest-hits album. Not that this artsy-synthpop group is promoting that level of self-importance. Still, the title invokes a confidence that must have been just what this trio from Baltimore needed to make this their strongest record to date.
Future Islands’ “Singles” arrives with a new production finesse that takes and tweaks all of band’s best artistic intentions into something recognizable as all their own. Without compromising themselves or their music, the band focuses its efforts to subtly hone in on its true strengths: raspy vocals, industrial new wave, and blunt, honest lyrics. The seemingly small adjustments add up to make one tremendous difference. Producer Chris Coady cleverly layers their sound, punching up the drums and giving the bass some snap, all of which comes across with a clarity that allows lead singer Samuel T. Herring’s voice to really shine. Although the sentiments are simple and the lyrics might not read as poetic on paper, Herring’s earnest vocals give them life. My favorite track on the album is the love song “Sun In The Morning,” though I am also a fan of the opening track, “Seasons (Waiting On You)” despite my dislike for growl-like vocals.
Up to this point, the band’s success has been largely based on their phenomenal, trademark live shows. After watching their recent performance on Letterman, it’s easy to see why. Herring moves with a contagious confidence and yet, also manages to connect emotionally with his audience during key pivotal moments. It is this stage presence that left fans begging for more at SXSW this year, though the strength of “Singles” is what kept Future Islands popping up in just about every conversation.