I’ve been acquainted with Future Islands for a little while now; we met through a mutual friend a little over a year ago and have spoken with each other on various occasions in passing. We’ve been nothing if not friendly and, at the very least, civil towards each other when I’ve seen them in concert or heard them over the stereo. They are always fun. They always got me to dance and talk about my feelings and stuff. But now that I’ve had the chance to just sit and engage with their newest album “In Evening Air” off of their new label Thrill Jockey, I can’t help but feel like there was something I’ve been missing all along.
It is something I believe to be a tortured sincerity (a quality I realize I am overly concerned with and is overly discussed in my columns, but forgive me because I find it incredibly difficult to justify writing about an album without talking about the emotional impact. Let’s face it, I’m not particularly good at talking about sex in a way that is accessible, I think, to most of you healthy people), that comes to life in the same way we do when we walk home at night, drunk and alone.
This synth-pop band based out of Baltimore are like really good friends. They are fun, but not so goddamned silly that you can’t stand them for more than an hour. They are serious, but not morose. They drink, but they maintain. And just like every good friend, they are slightly misunderstood by those who don’t really know them as well as you do.
For Future Islands, I find that the one thing that people are sort of torn on is the voice, which varies in tone but frequently dips into a surprising rasp or scratch or growl. It’s nothing too serious, nothing to be worried about, but it is there. It’s in this voice that I find the sincerity.
The subject of most of these songs, as dancey and fun as they can be, tends to veer towards love, relationships and personal identity. They are all valid, literate and beautiful. But what makes these songs stand out for me is the way the voice sings about these charted territories.
We all have these problems. We all feel lonely when we walk through doors alone. It’s a problem. We can’t tell people how we feel without sounding like we don’t realize that they all feel the same way. And so, when Future Islands sings, they speak in that very special, silly way people say something to prove that they are serious. That goofy (but not so goofy you can’t stand it), little adjusted tonality that is hidden in the voice in “An Apology” when he says “Here in my chest where you burst, I used to crush in the weight of the world.” Or in “Walking Through That Door” when he earnestly wishes he “could help you find your way” in that almost mocking tone.
It’s a self consciousness that admits the cliché, that admits it’s all kind of ridiculous to feel this way, but there is just no way around it. It is a very special confession that is graciously given over in the most light-hearted way possible so as not to bore or insult by assuming that we all don’t carry the same baggage.