While most synth pop creates atmospheric and airy vibes through melodic whispers or funky vocals, it is rare that you will come across music that falls into the category of synth pop that evokes emotion and translates well to the listener. Not since New Order have I heard a new wave/synth pop band as emotive as Future Islands. Comprised in 2006 by members Gerrit Welmers, William Cashion, and Samuel T. Herring, the indie pop band really made headlines with their hit single “Seasons (Waiting on You)”. Now, the band is onto their fifth album, The Far Field.
The Far Field perfects the winning formula that made their previous effort, Singles, such a success. “Aladdin” has a fitting name as the track feels like an ethereal magic carpet ride with sailing synths that rise and fall around a funky bass line and Herrings’ rich vocals. Although the instrumentals on each track sound lighthearted, the lyrics on The Far Field are often melancholic in nature.
The track “Cave” has a hard-hitting song on the entire album, with ominous echoing synths, panging bass, and tormented vocals. When this song was first played at SXSW, Herring explained to the crowd that this song was about “a desperate need to let go of your ideals and beliefs.” Passionately sung lyrics like, “Don’t believe anymore/ ‘Cause all we know, is gone and cold/ I don’t believe anymore/ ‘Cause all I hold, is all I own”.
There is only one feature on The Far Field, and that is from the legendary rock goddess, Debbie Harry from Blondie fame. I couldn’t think a better collaboration and it works perfectly on this this track “Shadows.” Against vintage bass lines and crashing cymbals, Harry and Herring trade vocals back and forth. Harry’s famous edge and Herring’s new wave-esque vocals collide flawlessly and make for a solid and enjoyable track that makes me yearn for more of these two (full collaborative album please?).
The downside of having an album that is so rich in catchy melodies is that the tracks ultimately melt into each other, which begins to happen towards the middle of The Far Field. After a while the album turns into a melting pot of synths and strong vocals, but can’t be picked a part into individual tracks. In fact, if I didn’t happen to look down at the tracks playing, I wouldn’t have even known that they changed half of the time.
As a whole, The Far Field is an extremely enjoyable experience that is summer ready, but each of the songs need more of a signature sound to tell them a part.