Future Islands are far from a new act, but their standout fourth LP (and debut for 4AD)—aptly titled Singles—is arguably the breakout of 2014. Released back in March, Singles was an early, immediate sensation for the Baltimore three-piece, and by mid-year had taken the lead as a serious contender for the best record of the year. Far from fading over time, Singles’ lasting power built throughout the months—improving itself with each listen, becoming a weirder, absorbing, and more rewarding experience on every successive spin.
Taking the steady, studious sounds from their excellent 2011 Thrill Jockey release On the Water and skyrocketing the synths into the stratosphere, Singles contains every asset of a perfect pop record: imaginative, elegant, clever, earnest, and a little odd. In its more subdued moments (“Back in the Tall Grass,” “A Song for Our Grandfathers”), the songs materialize as moving sonic odysseys, meticulously thoughtful and heartfelt. But the jewels of Singles come when these practices are applied to its most triumphant moments—“Seasons (Waiting on You),” “Spirit,” and “Dream of You and Me” come in expertly crafted melodic doses by guitarist William Cashion and keyboardist/electronics programmer Gerrit Welmers while, at the center of the storm, the unforgettable vocals and lyrics of Samuel T. Herring emote growling menace and deranged elation. Together and taken all at once, Singles moves something deep and true.—Breanna Murphy