For Baltimore’s Future Islands, their crossover moment was a YouTube clip of a live performance on Letterman. The song Seasons (Waiting On You) certainly has its pop smarts, but the most divisive factor of the band – Samuel T. Herring’s throaty, melodramatic vocals – have more of a chance to win people over when visually matched with their oddball maker in a live setting.
Singles sounds like an effort to make the quintessential Future Islands album. Its title suggests that it’s modelled on a best-of compilation, and it is dutifully filled with immediate songs that benefit from tight song structures and a polished production, achieved successfully without losing the essence of the band. The refined musical templates are met with less extreme vocals from Herring, so much so that the death-metal rattle late in the album on Fall From Grace takes you by surprise.
One of the key songs from the trio’s previous album (2011’s On The Water) was called Balance and this is exactly where that album trumps their latest; the slow-builds and shifting dynamics made it a more immersive, harmonised experience. Even so, Singles is a lush, forceful collection that’s brimming with a newfound confidence and optimism.