Singles by Future Islands
What kind of cool people will like it: people who really, truly, deeply care; those who fondly remember The Breakfast Club; anyone with a broken heart who knows it’s all going to be okay.
Some cool places you might find it: Celebrated Summer Records 3616 Falls Road Baltimore MD 21211 (443.866.9988), Wax Trax Records 638 E. 13th Ave Denver CO 80203 (303.860.0127), Easy Street Records & Café 4559 California Avenue Southwest Seattle WA 98116 (206.938.3729)
I love my daughter intensely, and I can tell she has that same capacity. Since she got here she has been one of the most passionate people I have ever met. She very much wants to be in the presence of what she loves, and she loves so much. I never want her to lose that passion. I always try to match her enthusiasm, even at Christmas, when she wants the all-Christmas-all-the-time station that won’t ever reach down into the crates any deeper than the occasional Jackson 5 song. One of the only times I’ve ever flat out lied to her was after watching her sing along to “Wonderful Christmas Time,” when she asked:
“Papa, do you like that song?”
“Yeah I think I do like it…I like the synthesizers. Did you know that’s the guy who wrote Rocky Raccoon?”
“Papa! That’s your favorite song! Can you show me a picture of a synthesizer? I mean when we stop the car?”
If we didn’t already have it, for Christmas I’d get my daughter, one of the coolest people I know, Singles by Future Islands.
Released at the beginning of 2014 and followed up by a what-exactly-am-I-watching performance on Letterman, Singles, the band’s fourth full-length album, is what might happen if Tom Waits scored a John Hughes film. In fact, lead singer Samuel T. Herring’s voice caroms around and through the entirety of Wait’s career-long vocal range within a single song. He croons and growls and speaks in whispers and you can sense him pleading with you to see what he sees and to know how he feels.
Herring’s choral oscillations are often the first thing you read about Future Islands, but it never feels like he is trying to overshadow the rest of the band. Each component has its own voice, none more prominent than another. For ten songs, Herring, bassist/guitarist William Cashion, and keyboardist/programmer/guitarist Gerrit Welmer communicate earnestly with one another.
Singles achieves a nice balance between the familiar and the new. One of my personal favorites, “Back in the Tall Grass,” finds Future Islands juxtaposing memories of cutting through a field as a child on a well worn walk home from school with the king of the road weariness of being grown and on the move, far removed from those comforts (and limitations).
Did you ever sit down with a group of really good friends, everyone getting caught up in each other’s excitement or sadness, each kind of echoing the other’s sentiment while adding some of their own personal experience to the collective soul-pouring? That’s what Singles is like. It’s also what most dinners are like at the Peligrosa-Malloy household.
It’s a beautifully simple album, full of the energy and love you’d expect from a band that still made time to do a favor for a friend and play a free show in September at Hampdenfest in Baltimore on almost no notice. I highly recommend gifting this album to a person you care deeply about, and then buying a copy for yourself.
After that we can start a petition to get Future Islands to re-record “Wonderful Christmas Time.” Because I love Paul McCartney, but I hate lying to my daughter.