Album review: "On the Water"
2010's "In Evening Air" made Future Islands one of the most blogged-about bands in Baltimore's rapidly maturing music scene. Nowhere was the band's ascent more evident than on the NPR Music site, which streamed the band's latest album, "On the Water," before its official release.
That's the indie-rock equivalent of having your wedding announced in the New York Times, and it signifies that Future Islands no longer belongs solely to Charm City. Fittingly, the trio decamped to North Carolina to record this compact suite of yearning synth-pop that speaks of life's journeys in visceral, often painful terms.
"We set out to find something to hold / When seeking truth, the answer is the road," Samuel Herring intones on the skipping-town anthem "Give Us the Wind," with the quavering, baroque vocal instrument that is the band's sonic calling card. The album's overall tone is one of resignation followed by renewal; growth, in other words, which is also heard in keyboardist Gerrit Welmers's ornate arrangements.
The partnership between Herring and bassist William Cashion, however, remains central to the band's core sound, and it's most vibrantly on display in "Before the Bridge," where Cashion's bass sprays with the reckless artistry of a graffitist. As long as that coupling remains intact, the road will be kind to Future Islands, no matter where it takes them from here.
--Alex Baldinger, Oct. 21, 2011