Future Islands - “As Long as You Are” Review

Story posted October 14, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by Paul Martin.

In 2014, Future Islands were riding high.

The band had a breakout performance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” performing their single “Seasons (Waiting On You),” which was also named one of the best songs of that year by publications such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

Nearly six years removed from their breakout, it feels as though the band still hasn’t reached their full potential.

That’s not to say the Baltimore-based dream pop outfit has been making bad music. The two albums the band has put out since that fateful year have been okay, if not passable.

Their 2017 release “The Far Field” was deemed acceptable by most music publications, and the band sounds like they’re still finding a way to break away from the single that got them noticed.

As was the case of their previous record, there are entirely too many songs on this record that blend together, characterized by blaring synths, deep basslines and lead singer Samuel Herring’s bellowing voice.

Out of the first four songs, the only diamond is “For Sure,” which makes one remember why so many people fell head over heels for the group. The energy the band is known for is evident on the track and the highs of the chorus seamlessly transitions into the verses.

It’s hard to say that about the album opener “Glada,” though, which feels like the song is traveling through molasses.

Herring’s baritone singing voice works well for some songs, but on others, it feels as though he’s singing lullabies intended to put the listener to sleep. “I Knew You” is guilty of this as Herring wades through clunker lyrics such as “you told me you'd been fine since I poisoned your life,” which probably should’ve been scrapped. 

On other tracks, Herring tries to lead the songs to higher places but instead it feels as though he is lost and takes the band down with him.

This is evident in multiple tracks, ranging from the forgettable “Waking,” which Herring said “is about those self-defeating feelings, and trying to get over them” but proceeds to tell us nothing about them, to the wandering “Born in a War,” which attempts to tackle gun violence but only graces it on the surface.

Herring gets props for attempting to touch on these issues but more than often than not, the lyrics come up flat.

Herring sings “I once called you friend, greatest fool, I know” on the politically charged “The Painter,” which the lead singer stated was “about realizing one of your good friends or one of your really close family members is a Trump supporter.” While it would be interesting to gather more elaborate thoughts on the matter, Herring brushes by them instead, like check marks on a to-do list.

With that being said, there are a lot of enjoyable aspects to the record.

The synths are beautiful and help the tracks stay afloat even when Herring’s vocals seem to drown them. Herring’s willingness to delve into serious subjects is also commendable as he touches on topics ranging from alcohol abuse on the intriguing “Thrill” to the aforementioned political issues touched on earlier songs.

There are also small sonic nuggets that fill the record when Herring isn’t singing. The last few moments on the swooping “Moonlight” are characterized by a prevalent guitar and layered vocals which add to the value of the song.

On the closer “Hit the Coast,” which details packing up bad habits and leaving them behind in an old city, the band offers a glimpse into a new sound the band could explore in future releases. While the trusty synths are always there, the songs bassline and drum beat help offer great substance to the track.

The first half of the record trudges along with an awkward pairing of vocals and music yet the band picks up the slack toward the back half. This offers a more cohesive sound and one that shows flashes of the potential similar to that seen on their “Letterman” performance so many years ago.

“Here's our chance to make it, make this into something more” Herring bellows on “Moonlight.” Sadly, listeners will have to wait until the next Future Islands release to see if he really means it.

Rating: 6/10

Reviewer’s favorite songs: For Sure, Thrill
Reviewer’s least favorite song: I Knew You

Paul Martin is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email at phm5095@psu.edu.

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