Future Islands, “As Long As You Are”

Future Islands
As Long As You Are
4AD
6/10

We’re drifting further and further away from Future Islands’ iconic 2014 Letterman performance. You may remember frontman Samuel T. Herring grooving his way into a bit of a zeitgeist moment for the indie-pop world—at the very least, it was a meme-worthy event online. Six years later, we’re pedaling up a slippery hill looking for some levity and love and not finding much of either feeling. The Baltimore new wave romanticists’ sixth album As Long As You Are is a long exhale after the excited breathing and bare-chested songcraft heard on On the Water, Singles, and The Far Field.

“City’s Face” is the worst example of this drifting feeling, since the ’80s ballad is so stark with its instrumentation that the raw emotion that Herring is so known for gets swallowed up into all the twinkling emptiness in the production. It’s a raw deal, because there are plenty of propulsive and dog-eared pages torn out of the new wave book of jams on either side of that track (see: “I Knew You” and “Waking”). There’s an off-putting quicksand effect going on with the pacing of this record, so each big blast of pop ends up being pulled down by the subsequent slower numbers as the album progresses onward. Herring’s yearning baritone has always been such a hallmark as it croaks along like an old shopkeeper spinning a yarn about lost love.

Herring and the band excel on “Moonlight,” “The Painter,” “Plastic Beach,” and single “For Sure.” The interplay between the synthesizers, searching bass, sharp guitars, and his pleading voice on the faster tracks still work for them, but the limp delivery of the rest of the record taken as a complete piece is ineffectual at best. The title of the album, As Long As You Are, reads like a lover passive aggressively going along with the flow, too afraid of making any waves in a relationship. It fits for the stilted pacing, instrumentation, and timidness to shake up the formula six albums into a solid career. By the time the second half of the album comes to a close, even the memorable yelps and synth lines all get lost in the pain. Let’s bring back the chest beating and dancing with tears in our eyes. A new dance move or two couldn’t hurt either.

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