Album Review: Future Islands - On The Water

1 June 2012 | 6:46 pm | Brendan Telford

Gorgeous and personal, On The Water is an album of majesty and grace, the defining document for Herring’s immense songwriting talents.

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Future Islands are not your normal band. Not because they play a genre that is out of favour or on the fringes – in fact, the Baltimore trio's take on '80s-centric synth pop with ample shades of romanticism and wonder has come more in favour as the years have rolled by. The divisive element is frontman Samuel T. Herring and his throaty, maniacally melodramatic vocals. Yet whilst these disparate elements see-sawed in success on 2008 debut Wave Like Home, Herring et al. seemed to find the perfect balance between revisionism, histrionics and revelry by focussing on the burning, hurtful embers of a relationship on their follow-up In Evening Air (2010). Yet the evolution continues, with On The Water imbibing the maudlin overtures for more wide-reaching musical climes, all the while divesting the music with warmth and heady familiarity.

The opening title track offers Future Islands' whole bag of tricks – Herring's vocals, huge smouldering synth and effortless sampling all coming together in an unhurried and measured delivery, and is utterly beautiful. In fact that is the achievement here – On The Water is a beautiful beast, scaling back on the bombast and offering Future Islands' Gerrit Welmers and William Cashion's efforts to step to the fore on tracks like the ethereal Where I Found You and the wonderfully optimistic Close To None.

Gorgeous and personal, On The Water is an album of majesty and grace, the defining document for Herring's immense songwriting talents. Some will mourn the omission of the effervescent spazzouts upon which the band built their reputation, something that is augmented by Herring's frenetic stage presence, yet it showcases a band that are in total control.