Future Islands Wave Like Home

[Upset The Rhythm; 2008]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: Minimalist dancepunk, pop, lo-fi, post wave
Others: Dan Deacon, The Killers, Atom And His Package

I'm actually quite surprised that there aren't a lot more musicians like Future Islands. Given the established success of The Killers, I figured there’d be hordes of new, young bands coming out of the woodwork. I mean, the only resources needed to capitalize on the prolonged dancy, punky, poppy craze are an ear for catchy melodies and basement production capabilities. Who knows, maybe I just haven't heard of these like-sounding bands, because, well, I’m sure they’re mostly untalented, loathsome pieces of shit. (Yeah, I said it.) Nonetheless, Future Islands, with their bulging range of pop influences and strident DIY aesthetic, do have fighting potential, currently sitting somewhere in the above-average class of emerging artists. But this isn't to say they couldn't benefit from trimming some fat and bulking up in order to step in the ring with the big boys.

If Future Islands existed 15 years ago, they probably would have been a punk outfit, one whose songs were made ubiquitous in mid-Atlantic skateparks by bouncing around on high school mix tapes (hopefully tiny ones). In fact, particularly on the excellent song “Old Friend,” they remind me somewhat of Atom And His Package, the unfairly overlooked one-man, lo-fi punk legend from the Philadelphia area in the ’90s. But punk bands sadly no longer appeal to the over-15 female audience, and so it makes sense that these Islands are now utilizing their high-energy charisma to gain a following in the underground rock party world.

That said, Wave Like Home seems to play out like the chronological soundtrack to a torrid high school romance. Sam Herring, Gerrit Welmers, William Cashion, and Eric Murillo really rev up their punk motor on the album's early songs, such as "Old Friend" and "Flicker and Flutter," which spark up the heart-knows-no-bounds kinetics of lonely adolescent lust. As the album progresses, the teenage saga ignites (“Sieze A Shark”), goes through tribulations (“Heart Grows Old”), falls apart (“Beach Foam”), goes through depression (“Wave Like Home”), and finally ends with calm acceptance (“Little Dreamer”). The entire emotional ordeal lasts just under a half hour, roughly the length of an actual teenage relationship.

However, there are two standout elements to Future Islands that do make them a distinct and promising act. First is lead singer's Sam Herring's burly voice, which cuts through the music like Jack Black cartwheeling across a theater stage on rollerblades. Dramatic, gruff, and way overly emotive, Herring's chops demand immediate attention and are a nice change of pace from the whiny screeches plaguing most post-something-wave dance. Second is the efficiency of their stripped-down setup. The band is able to squeeze a bunch of moods from limited equipment, cranking it loud enough to get the party started and dancing. Hopefully with more recognition the Islands will find more novel ways to make use of their equipment (or perhaps buy new gear) that would expand their sonic palette.

The primary drawback of Wave Like Home is the predictability of its progression. Too many of the songs are based on a repeating, fuzzy synth line, which is then manipulated in each track to fit its desired emotion -- and as stated before, many standard emotions are (too briefly) covered. Although they are clearly influenced by ’80s waves and European kraut, Future Islands convey an undeniable romanticist yearning – a desire to be noticed, to throw-down, to rock-out. The music on Wave Like Home is appropriate for either dancing in a gritty underground party or making out with your new squeeze for a few minutes before your mom arrives in the Volvo and picks you up. And since I am in my mid-20s, I can feasibly do only one of those two things.

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