MAGNET’s #7 Album Of 2017: Future Islands’ “The Far Field”

The narrative for Future Islands’ fifth album is simple and linear: The Samuel Herring-fronted synth-pop band struck gold with “Seasons (Waiting On You)” from 2014’s Singles, partly on the heels of an instant-classic Letterman performance. Although the Baltimore band came out of the same scene as experimental oddballs like Dan Deacon, “Seasons” was pure pop bliss, and The Far Field doubles down on its strengths. Throbbing, New Order-ish bass lines, bubbling synths, rhythms that propel you to the dance floor, and, most of all, Herring’s emotive, gruff vocals. He’s quite the singer, conveying earnest commitment, desperation and heartache from within a muscular, masculine exterior. “Freezing rain can’t keep me away from you,” he growls on “North Star,” and there’s a sad plea within his pledge. On The Far Field, Future Islands find the difference between selling out (compromising one’s identity and values to follow paths that have potential for commercial reward) and buying in (recognizing when one has at last found a perfect alchemy, then seeing what more can be done with the ingredients). Which also meant, for Herring and Co., drafting one of their heroes—Debbie Harry—for a duet that, although it slightly disrupts the spell Herring has cast, makes perfect sense for a nigh-perfect record. —Steve Klinge; photo by Gene Smirnov

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