FOUR albums and eight years into its career, this Baltimore pop trio has hit its stride with Singles, a 10-song collection that all but lives up to its title. The band’s previous release, 2011’s On the
Water, was memorable but lacked the consistent hooks that set Singles apart. The songs are assembled with the usual suspects on keyboards, bass, guitar and drums, but vocalist Sam Herring dominates. Even after cycling through every synonym for “unique”, I fall short of capturing what Herring offers. He possesses an improbably wide vocal range, from sweet high melodies to a surprising death-metal growl that makes a brief appearance in Fall from Grace, but he has the emotive weight to sell the lovelorn concepts that take centre-stage. There’s no room for second-guessing his sincerity. Herring is as compelling a frontman as I’ve heard in any genre, let alone in the pleasant pop music with which Future Islands concerns itself. This point of difference is worth the price of admission, yet the leap forward in songwriting that William Cashion (bass, guitar) and Gerrit Welmers (keyboards, guitar, programming) have assembled around Herring is remarkable. Standout moments include the driving guitars on album opener Seasons
(Waiting on You), the sighing synth sounds in Doves and the poignant mood that imbues A Song for Our Grandfathers.
It’s to the trio’s credit that all 10 tracks are
uniformly strong. Naming an album Singles takes no small amount of self-confidence, yet in this case it’s well-earned.