In a sentence:
Emotionally unshackled but musically pristine, the contrasts of Future Islands’ sixth album ‘As Long As You Are’ make it their most rewarding so far.
Active since 2006, Future Islands have continued to churn out fabulous songs and magnificent synth filled projects and have had a great run in the second half of their career. Future Islands has been described in great magnitude as a synth-pop group, but the members of the band have continually disagreed with that tag and have maintained that they be labelled as ‘post-wave’, by combining the romanticism of new wave with the power and drive of post-punk but the discussion never seems to end. The band rose to prominence with their 2014 record Singles, wherein the lead single ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ was considered best song of the year by Pitchfork and NME – sparked by their now-legendary performance on Letterman, it was a moment of cut-through that vanishingly few indie bands enjoy any more. As Long As You Are follows up their hastily-recorded 2017 album The Far Field, and where the condescending or driving tone of its predecessor metamorphosised into existential dread and anguish this time out.
As Long As You Are sees the band spinning off the
tracks and reaching for the metaphorical bottle. The anthems, full of Samuel T.
Herring’s gritty growl, have been replaced by broken ballads racked with
haunting memories. Herring’s vocals, too, are more restrained and introspective
than we have come to expect. The simpler instrumentation only lays down the
sober and sombre tone of the songs, making them more hard hitting than they
have ever been. For all of the baroque, restrained grace of previous records, As
Long As You Are demonstrates that Future Islands at their most
uncompromising and imaginative where no holds are barred.
The record starts with ‘Glada’, a
slow burning ballad about the rebirth of spring and of feeling love again, but
which more importantly sees Herring question whether he deserves that feeling. Future
Islands summed up ‘For
Sure’ as “a song about love and trust because one cannot exist without the
other”. On ‘Born In
A War’, the band laments about the gun violence that is prevalent in the
States. Following this are the brutal ‘I Knew You’
and the haunting ‘City’s
Face’, two toxic tales depict the tortured frontman reflecting on his past
relationships. Standout track ‘Waking’, with
its pulsing basslines and widescreen ‘80s synths, sits perfectly alongside the
likes of 2014 breakthrough single ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’.
asks why the ideologies of politics and morality of people differ so much, why cannot
the people commonly agree on a certain topic. Then the listener encounters the
intensely moving ‘Plastic
Beach’, which addresses how love can help to overcome body dysmorphia. ‘Moonlight’ is about
acceptance because that is what love allows us all. Then the listener is
greeted by ‘Thrill’,
a song about battling addiction in Greenville, North Carolina, where Future Islands
began its journey. It is about the isolation and fear we feel in our homes and
in society. And at the end of this journey, we reach ‘Hit The Coast’,
which Herring describes as “a song about putting everything into your car or
your van and getting away from all the toxic things in your life […] cause
sometimes you have to go.”
Crucially, As Long As You Are doesn’t neglect to let
some light and optimism pierce the overall gloom of proceedings. The band often
claims that there is chirpiness in pain (dark) and gloominess in hope (light)
and therefore, their dark and grim vocals and depressive overtones are often
coupled with bubbly and fast-paced instrumentation. While a handbrake U-turn
for Future Islands, all of the signature elements are still present: the bass
guitar is steady, Herring’s powerful vocals are growly, the tone is gritty, and
the dreamy synths are plentiful. As Long As You Are perfectly encapsulates
the message of the songs and overall arching theme of existential dread, and
completely satisfies the listener on its own terms. (9/10) (Aryan Agarwal)
Listen to As Long As You Are by Future Islands here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: 4AD, album, Future Islands, Gerrit Welmers, Michael Lowry, Samuel T Herring, William Cashion
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