Samuel T. Herring caught between chest-beatsFlorian Koppe

Future Islands are the beautiful combination of ridiculously disparate elements that combine beautifully to create the ultimate post-ironic band. They’re now in their thirties, but have always looked much older. They make synthpop in the eighties sense, not in the way, say, LCD Soundsystem integrate synthpop elements with self-aware retro-ness. The singer, Samuel T. Herring, looks exactly like Rory Kinnear and has a singing style so affected that anyone who attempts to imitate him still sounds less like a parody than he does. And of course, there’s the matter of the live performances.

I understand that the meme-ation of Future Islands is, at large, bemoaned by the band’s fans because it makes it almost impossible for someone to un-ironically appreciate the energy and emotion on display during their concerts. However, I strongly believe that whether a bandleader’s stupid dancing is sincere or not we should be able to make fun of it because, after all, they’re making people pay to come watch them do it. Back in 2011, when Thom Yorke boldly came clean to all Radiohead fans in the form of the ‘Lotus Flower’ video, revealing he was now keeping a pet ferret in his underwear at all times, used vinyl stores and independent coffee shops shook with hilarity.

“Should I really be listening to something my dad would probably enjoy more than I do?”

All these elements create the funniest band of the decade when they are combined with the secret ingredient: complete sincerity on Future Islands’ part. Additionally, the music is good, so listening to their albums is a beautiful exercise in tightrope-walking, as one tiptoes the line between earnestly appreciating their music and laughing at the absurdity of it all to create the ultimate postmodern experience.

However, halfway through The Far Field, a different feeling sets in, something close to existential terror. Questions begin to echo around the listener’s head, in time with the smooth, bouncy basslines. Post-meme, what is the point in Future Islands? Why has none of the music changed? Am I enjoying this? Is it OK for every song to be the same? Why am I still a fan of these people? Should I really be listening to something my dad would probably enjoy more than I do?

I’m certain that after their rise to fame through memery and their truly excellent tour to support Singles, Hemlock Ernst (Samuel Herring’s actual rapper name) asked himself and the rest of the band whether it was worth doing the exact same thing again. And obviously, the answer must have been yes.

I might sound like I’m criticising The Far Field (because I am), but it has the strongest opening since In Evening Air. ‘Aladdin’ is a bloody great song, and beautifully showcases the art-pop potential of the band’s even cleaner sound, not to mention the condensed fun Herring’s singing can be at times when he fully embraces his pop potential. As ‘Time On Her Side’ follows, it becomes clear the album’s ambition is to turn each individual song into a three-minute epic. And does that song succeed. The orchestral arrangement and synth arpeggios accumulate into a euphoric climax, the album’s crowning moment.

The problem is that this very same ambition is pumped into every song, and the album gets particularly saturated in the middle, as the similarities between the songs begin to show. And, as I’ve remarked, though the extreme earnestness is a big part of what makes Future Islands special, I still can’t let myself be taken in by the overwhelming emotional sincerity of it all, which becomes an obstacle to enjoyment in the long term. The album is redeemed somewhat by the welcome slowing in pace towards the end, but ‘Through the Roses’ really drags the album down, as does ‘Cave’

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