27 May 2017

Future Islands - The Far Field


Future Islands are a band who I have heard an awful lot about, but until this album I have not knowingly listened to.  Considering that they are currently on the 4AD label, that is something of a crime on my behalf.  They were formed in 2016 in Greenville, North Carolina, but they are now hailing from Baltimore, Maryland and this is their fifth studio album.  They have been getting praise for their live shows and music, but it has passed me by as there is only so many hours in the day.  So, I have made a conscious effort to listen to 'The Far Field' which was released on April 7th, 2017, mainly I have done this because I was receiving so many messages asking for my thoughts on the band and a curiosity that has built within me. According to the gospel of Wikipedia (truth might be fleeting) they are classed as Synth Pop, Indie Pop and New Wave.  Now, there is currently a huge New Wave revival happening, a trend of music that started in the late 70's and dominated in the early 80's, with ties to disco/experimental synth music.  It is a genre that has given the world so many wonderful bands and songs, will Future Islands be another act to add to this list?

01 - Aladdin

The album fades in slowly, with a synth pop song that reminds me a bit of The War on Drugs if they ditched their guitars and went for an early Depeche Mode sound.  It is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  It soothes the listener and holds them in a cocoon of warm synths, not a bad way to start the album.

02 - Time on Her Side

'Time on Her Side' does very little to change the formula that was presented on 'Aladdin', meaning that we have two songs which can be defined as such - It is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song. It is another decent number, but whilst the top layer of synth is slightly different, it has a Coal Chamber feeling about it - it is not pushing the envelope within the realms of their sound.  So, very good, but pretty much the same feeling as 'Aladdin'.

03 - Ran

Well, at least it starts differently.  We are treated to the same progression throughout 'Ran' that the Future Islands have introduced in the first two numbers - it is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  To be fair to them here, this song has a striking chorus that runs all the way through and it is beautifully played, but once again the backing synth and drums are so similar to the rest of the album that it hinders the progress of the top layers on this song.  It is really good, but so similar that you feel like you are listening to the same song once again.

04 - Beauty of the Road

With a slightly slower style, 'Beauty of the Road' aims for something different.  However, it is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  The more things change, the more they stay the same for this band it seems.

05 - Cave

Let’s get this out of the way - It is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  The main difference comes in the chorus which has a slight difference and acts as a passionate call for non-believers, but apart from that it is business as usual with this indictment of God/The Gods/Is anyone out there.  I like this, but I have no illusions that I am listening to a song that sounds the exact same as the previous four underneath that top layer of synth and demanding, harrowing vocals.

06 - Through the Roses

We have reached the half way point of this song...sorry album and here is my assessment of 'Through the Roses'.  It is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  Ok, it is slightly slower to be honest, but it is also incredibly similar to the rest of the album.  I am not hating the sound, but I am wondering if they are going to expand on this classic pop formula at all?

07 - North Star

The second half of the album starts as the first half ended, it is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  Using a slightly different verse section, I was prepared to change my running sentence, but then it reverted to type once again.  Again, I am not disliking this sound, but I am also awaiting a change I have a feeling is not forthcoming from the Future Islands.

08 - Ancient Water

With a gentle start, 'Ancient Water' slowly changes and it is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  The repetitive nature of the Future Islands continues on this song as it has on the previous seven, but it is not a bad tune or without charm.  The music is very engaging and has a nice hook, beautiful production and hits the emotive points that you would expect from this band.  But it is just another variant on the original template, that is the only criticism I have about this song (and by extension, the album).

09 - Candles

There is a slight change here, it is a good song, steady beat, slow paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  But even with this majestically slow pace, mournful in motion and the heart beats a little heavier with each beat.  It is a very good song, giving a slight difference to the formula and it sounds beautiful, but once again it is very familiar.

10 - Day Glow Fire

We are back on course ladies and gentlemen!  It is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  It is a song that you are already familiar with from the first note till final build-up of chords towards the end.  It is a beautiful song, but showing nothing of difference to the rest of the songs on this album, it is a good number though.

11 - Shadows

Featuring the legendary Debbie Harry from Blondie on this penultimate song, the Future Islands have created.... a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  It simmers along, rarely threatening to explode into life and it is a gentle/positive number that keeps in line with the rest of the record.  Again, nothing bad here what so ever, just a very familiar sound and Debbie Harry add her beautiful vocals with professional ease.

12 - Black Rose

Well, we have reached the end of the album, we have one more roll of the dice and what will it be for this song......

It is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  It could have been the first song, the second or any of the previous.  It is another enjoyable tune, but it ends the album with the familiar sound that has been the calling card of this record.


Whilst I appreciated that I am an older gentleman and music for the younger generation is supposed to pass me by at times and leave me confused, I would like to point out a few things here.  On every song of this review I have used a variant of the following - It is a good song, steady beat, mid paced in style, striking vocals and a very good hook towards the end of the song.  The music is not confusing me here, quite the opposite as I was brought up with the original New Wave and understand that it can be repetitive in nature, but even a lot of these bands had a couple of repetitive tracks, but not a whole album of the same song in slightly different variations.  Now, I want to also be fair to the band as well, I actually like the way they sound as it is a retro noise that has a bit of modern production that makes it sound relevant.  Out of the twelve versions of the same song structure, I think it is a toss-up between 'Ran', 'Cave' and 'Aladdin' for song of the album, with the betting siding with 'Cave' to be honest.  But I am guessing that they are making a career out of the same song style, which is not a bad thing to be honest.  This is a tactic that has been the basis of a lot of musical careers - Motorhead, AC/DC, Erasure to name a few.  But if they had a few different songs, it could have changed the complexion of this album.  As it stands, the lack of variation on this album (in my eyes at least) might hinder the Future Islands foreseeable future, at least until they add a few more differences to this style.  It is a good album and one which I have enjoyed a lot, but incredibly repetitive and that is why it is only good and not great.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top version of the track - Cave

You can purchase The Far Field on Amazon here.


You can visit the Future Islands website here, you can also purchase The Far Field on this site as well. 

You can follow the activities of the Future Islands on Facebook here.

You can stream The Far Field on Spotify here.

You can stream The Far Field on Deezer here. 

You can stream The Far Field on Tidal here. 

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