Review: The Far Field (4AD) - Future Islands

The Far Field is the latest intricate 80's synth-pop release from well-oiled indie machine Future Islands - out now on 4AD.
Posted: 24 April 2017 Words: Bianca Eddleston
Future Islands are a band that doesn't mind repeating themselves and why should they, we don't. The Far Field is the trio's fifth offering, and in general, doesn't deviate from what we would expect from them. The songs on Far Field pinnacle around solid writing, melodic and forward bass guitar, crispy snare and symphonic synths that wouldn't be out of place in 80's OMD combined with, as ever a commanding vocal from Herring. Recorded at Sunset Sound with John Congleton, the production sounds expensive. Evidence of the band's evolving prowess is the ever-intricate arrangements and finely honed rapport between the smattering of synth layers and vocals. Stand out songs like Ran and Cave hint of similar hit-dom and woeful themes to songs from 2014's ‘Singles’. However, the songs do seem to lack the urgency of ‘Seasons (Waiting on You)’. An album highlight is on the penultimate track Shadows. With the effervescent Debbie Harry adding a timeless quality with her sparkling hushed vocals. A collaboration that makes sense considering the trio's obvious leanings towards 1980's synth pop. This album was always going to be compared to its predecessor. And yes, we are all still talking about Herring's dancing on the Letterman show performing ‘Seasons (Waiting on you)’. Whilst it doesn’t quite match up to Singles, it does pack a mighty punch. The band bring new life and meaning to their songs whilst performing them and I, for one am looking forward to seeing them perform this album. This is where the magic happens for this trio. Herring is captivating, wild as a beast and a lovable frontman and his performances and dancing have already become canonised. If Marlon Brando had played Patrick Swayze's dance instructor in Dirty Dancing, this is what it would look and sound like. With an equal dose of fearlessness and vulnerability, he endeared his band to a much wider audience after ‘Seasons (Waiting on You).

In a recent interview with The Times, the band talk of exhaustion from playing their 1000th show whilst touring Singles. Dare I say the fatigue is evident in The Far Field, mainly because of T Herring's vocal delivery and lyrics. Still commanding and emotive, but on this album, more reminiscent of The Smiths. The dynamic of uplifting music and pace combined with a slightly depressed melancholy vocalist. Herring doesn't indulge himself completely in the same way Morrissey did, but you can hear him battle a lethargy with himself as he sings in his lyric in Cave "I don't believe anymore”. We do Herring, we believe and that “is more than enough for me and for you” as Harry and Herring duet in Shadows. ‘The Far Field’ like ‘Singles’, will grow and bloom with every exorcising performance of it that we have to look forward to.

What next? Probably a short break and collaborations for the Stranger Things Season 3 soundtrack, I guess.

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