‘Singles’ is simply good
John Darr | Wednesday, March 26, 2014
You know those stories you tell at parties? You know, the ones that you spend all night trying to tell, butting into random conversations and just saying “Hey? Hey guess what?” until everyone stops and looks at you, kind of annoyed, kind of confused, but you’re too excited to register that and blurt out:
“Last Saturday I was at this grocery store, and as the lady was checking me out, she said, that’ll be three-oh-three and I said, that’s my favorite band! And she said, ‘You too?’ and I said, ‘ANOTHER GREAT BAND!’ and, hahahaha! Oh man, hahaha, that was just, just so, hahahahah!”
And everyone just looks at you for a second. And then they just all turn their backs on you and you sadly wonder where you went wrong.
It was a great moment. I mean, she was this older woman who looked like she’d never listen to 3OH!3, and you’re never witty but DANG you were fast with those quips. Maybe the next customers in line were just happy for no good reason, but boy did they laugh along! That moment was special and happy and magical in the context of the everyday shopping mall surroundings. It’s the sort of moment that you just want to share with everyone you meet.
“Singles” is essentially a collection of those uber-special moments. On paper, it looks like nothing — another indie-pop album with 80s-influence and a unique-sounding singer? Pretty stripped-down, straightforward production? Sleepy lost-love song lyrics like, “I want you to know, I was thinking about you” and “I was waiting on you” and “Sun in the morning/moon always beaming?” Honestly, how do you tell someone that such an album will bring them tidings of great joy, or maybe even change their life?
As it turns out, Future Islands is such a success because they are led by a honest-to-goodness superhero. Lead singer and songwriter Samuel T. Herring carries the entire album into a realm of its own with legendary vocals on nearly every track. The man wrenches emotion out of every word of every track. On “Spirit” his voice scratches in imploring earnestness. On “Light House” it whispers in loss. On “Sun in the Morning” it calls out strong like a light in the storm. Unlike so many indie records today, one doesn’t need to investigate or understand the lyrics to get the full emotional impact of the music. It’s simply ingrained within the music itself, courtesy of Herring’s ambitious and brave vocal style.
Of course, the record succeeds because the songs themselves are also fantastic. “Spirit” leads off with a groovy, slightly dark synth line. Momentum and energy tumble and snowball throughout the song until it turns into a full-on raver.
Opening track “Seasons (Waiting On You)” carries a beautiful verse melody which explodes into a powerfully gorgeous, and unforgettable, guitar-driven chorus.
Ridiculously funky bass lines, a soaring bell track and a smooth-as-silk guitar riff compensate for the lack of a relatively strong vocal hook on “Doves.”
So that’s it. Singles is a great pop album fronted by a frontman whose charisma and vocal diversity are unrivalled. It’s consistently catchy, inspiring and epic. There’s nothing more to say. Now you just have to listen.