Having honed their craft across three full lengths, it wasn’t until 2014's Singles that Baltimore trio Future Islands really got people listening. An album made up of 80’s synth-pop gems combined with Samuel T Herring’s dancing on that Letterman performance, found Future Islands with more entranced listeners than they ever imagined. Finding itself in the upper echelons of Top 10 lists of 2014 across the board, it became an instant classic. The titanic endeavour of following such a release is one that the band have taken in their stride, creating an album that doesn’t try to compete with their previous success but instead gives the listener more of what they love.
The Far Field is packed with the same eerie synth backdrops and rolling basslines that make Future Islands' music instantly recognisable. Opener Aladdin settles the listener in, easing them back in to Herring & co’s blissful world with strings to back up their standard three-piece form. Lead single Ran is one of the most slickly produced moments on the album, with the chorus an expansive swell of drums backing Herring’s impassioned, gravelly vocals. While it is the lead track from the record, much like Singles this is a album made of incredibly strong stand-alone tracks. Perhaps something to do with the relative simplicity of their minimal but sturdy set up, each track is as hooky and endearing as the next.
The addition of live drums to the mix, absent from previous records, gives The Far Field a larger physical presence than we are used to, and that’s a good thing. Another welcome surprise is Herring’s duet with Debbie Harry on Shadows, the latter’s now-aged vocal a haunting complement to the frontman’s own. Yet, the similarity between this and their last release has its problems. Precisely because they share so much in aesthetic and lyrical content, what was immediately engaging on Singles is not so on The Far Field. What was previously disarming in its honesty, we now expect and prepare for. This doesn’t mean that the quality has suffered, it has just softened.
Listen to: Ran, Shadows
Buy Future Islands - The Far Field on LP/CD from Norman Records