Few acts are bigger in the synthpop scene than Future Islands. This North Carolina-based band came on to the music scene in 2014 with their album “Singles.” Since then they have only grown in popularity. However, with their latest album “As Long As You Are,” the band seems to have gone ghost.
Lead singer Samuel T. Herring has a very unique voice for synthpop. It is husky and rich with passion, at least that’s what it was like on “Seasons (Waiting on You)” which was released six years ago and is the band’s best song. On “As Long As You Are,” however, Herring’s voice takes a back seat to the synths and drums, which are fantastic, but it makes the album a hollow listening experience.
The best example of this is on the track “For Sure” where Herring’s voice is deep but lacks any punch to make the track exciting. This is disappointing since the 80s style synths give the song a relaxed vibe.
“As Long As You Are” is a somber record that deals with heartbreak and politics. That being said, there is no reason why Herring’s vocals should be this weak on the album. Half of the songs felt like background noise while the other half are good songs with mediocre vocals.
Herring’s singing wouldn’t be such an issue if he knew how to use his voice. An great album that has subdued vocals is My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless.” It had excellent mixing while also touching on dark topics. What sets apart the singing on “Loveless” from Herring’s on “As Long As You Are” is the ability to create a vocal atmosphere that matches the tone of the instrumentation and lyrics. Herring failed to do this, and with abstract lyrics on the album, “As Long As You Are” has a confused atmosphere.
In the midst of this confusion there are some songs that manage to fit the mold that Future Islands was going for on this album. The opening track “Glada” feels like being by a lake in the early morning. It is very relaxed and poetic with lines such as “Heaven’s a mystery, unless you’re a star,” which helps make the song feel warm.
If you’re looking for a song that is similar to Future Islands in 2014, “Waking” is the one for you. The intro is up tempo and the vocals show some sign of life. Where the song really shines is with its outro, which makes you feel like you’re on a euphoric journey with hazy synths in the background.
Disappointment can come in many ways. With “As Long As You Are,” the disappointment drags through most of the album to a point where the songs are just white noise. Keyboardist Gerrit Welmers should work on his own material since his synth playing is what prevented this record from being forgettable.
Do yourself a favor and listen to acts like Beach House or LCD Soundsystem. Their music is timeless and emotional. Future Islands had a moment in the sun, but like with everything in life, nothing lasts forever and their latest record proved that the band does not have what it takes to be a legendary act.