In a time and place like 2020, I’m sure I’m not the only person who not only craves for things to go back to some semblance of normality and homogeneity, but also tries to simultaneously avoid the monotonous nature and constant groundhog days we’ve collectively experienced for the past six months.
There’s a fine line to be tread between wanting change and being able to remove yourself from the safety blanket you currently experience. For bands like Future Islands, their safety blanket is the sound they’ve ever so slowly curated since forming in 2006, while the unknown is what fans will think of their new album As Long As You Are. Returning three years since their The Far Field release, Future Islands are back with their now universally recognisable synth-driven sound, whilst also looking to embrace intimate and small changes to re-awaken themselves from the repetitive and cyclical times of 2020.
Having made a name for themselves on the back of their live performances and the outgoing nature of frontman Samuel Herring when behind the mic, As Long As You Are is Future Islands near to their euphoric best.
You know those songs that you can picture in a live setting, with the singer putting their all into the moment as the drama of the song’s 4 minutes sweeps through the venue? As Long As You Are is full of those moments.
Lead single “For Sure” is as close to their break out single “Seasons (Waiting on You)” as you’d want to be without admitting to just copying it entirely. It has the trademark jangly synth and bouncing bass, up-tempo chorus, and signature guttural vocal notoriety of Herring. Put simply you can definitely picture this being performed live, as the crowd struts along and the sweat beads from Herring’s brow.
The ever-present bass from “For Sure” returns on “Born in a War” as the album clicks into gear and you well and truly realise how much you’ve missed seeing this band at a festival. The traumatised vocals over the closing minute is the track at its peak.
Future Islands are now a fully-fledged four-piece having formally and permanently brought in drummer Mike Lowry. This has opened the band’s potential up as they’ve taken on co-producing responsibilities on an album for the first time. With this added responsibility and inspired influence in their sound, there is a surprising layer added to their tracks, shown most notably on “City’s Face”. Touching on a past relationship that finished in frustration, “City’s Face” is that moment you look back and finally notice all the red flags you’d spent the entirety of the relationship trying to avoid.
Kicking back into gear with the 80’s inspired “Waking”, it has a definite The Cure vibe to it, with the bass once more proving to be the hero of the track. Written introspectively and reflectively, it touches on the need to give a little bit of self-love instead of focusing all your efforts on others. It’s a truly fun moment on As Long As You Are. Leading with the theme of water and the need to not drown/ tread water, “The Painter” is a great middle-ground for the album, as it highlights the danceable moments of the release, whilst touching on more serious themes and motifs.
Without a doubt, the best song on the album is “Plastic Beach”, with a relentless hi-hat throughout the chorus as the vocals of Herring effortlessly deliver just under four minutes of glory. It has that classic stadium rock sound to it, in the same vein of Gang of Youths, The War on Drugs and even a little bit of Springsteen. The closing minute is an absolute victory. As Long As You Are closes out on “Hit The Coast”, which is once more a song that straddles the euphoria driven bass you’ve come to expect from Future Islands, whilst leaning a little more into an indulgent and reflective sound.
Released at a time where people want to see change and are sick of the same-old same-old, As Long As You Are is a reminder that, yes, change is good and needed for growth, but will only ever occur once you embrace change and leave behind the safety blanket you’ve come so accustomed to.
FOUR STARS OUT OF FIVE
As Long As You Are is out Friday 9 October.