[sic] Magazine

Future Islands – On The Water

Thankfully not leaving it too long since their striking In Evening Air , Future Islands are back with another largely if-it-ain’t-broke offering of forlorn synth-wave – and this time they’ve gone a little easier on the Hook-and-Sumner brand post-punk, rendering silky cuts like “Before The Bridge” closer to Twin Shadow than to karaoke New Order .

Always likely to be a constant however, On The Water dutifully finds Samuel T. Herring in fine voice. Nevertheless, he’s toned it down a touch too. No longer confined to the pained yelp of some club-singer, Herring is now in possession of a smooth baritone capable of ranging gracefully from the soulful (see teary ballad “Where I Found You”) to the downright epiphanic such as the powerful “Give Us The Wind”. All the same, it’s still a voice as likely to divide opinion as it is to surprise; the tender, watery “Tybee Island” is unrecognisable, for example.

Either way, charting a similar trajectory to post-wave contemporaries Silk Flowers , Future Islands have another winner on their hands with On The Water , which, although less theatrical, is the Baltimore outfit’s most assured album to date. The gentle duet “The Great Fire”, on which Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak turns in a very strong argument, couldn’t have featured on earlier works, but does so beautifully here. The catchy “Balance” could equally and easily have overloaded on synth, but is held back bravely and the tactic again pays off.

Undercut with threatening, sometimes crushing, crunching and cavernous bass courtesy of William Cashion , the lighter keys that adorn many tracks feel wistful in their precarious setting. And it’s this uneasy balance that sets On The Water apart. It feels dark, yet the keys shimmer. Herring treads carefully, seeming to stalk his verses rather than singing them. It could all be coincidence, but it seems that Future Islands are perhaps on the cusp of maturity, and it suits them.

Advised downloads: “The Great Fire” and “Give Us The Wind”.

~On The Water is out now on Thrill Jockey .~

[sic] review: In Evening Air

Future Islands @ myspace