Future Islands On the Water

Future Islands On the Water
Future Islands might have been born 25 years too late, and in the wrong country, for the New Romantic Era, but they'd have fit right in. The Baltimore, MD quartet's sound is distinctly early '80s, bringing to mind the timbres of the Cure and Ultravox, but what their sound lacks in originality the band make up for with songwriting variety and subtlety. On the Water is a finely balanced record, 11 tracks of well-placed interludes and six-minute, New Order-style epics, each different enough to keep the record's momentum going, but similar enough that it's stylistically cohesive. "The Great Fire," "Balance" and "Give Us the Wind" are album highlights, but this release is held together by mood and atmosphere, which Future Islands have in spades. Singer Samuel T. Herring's nasal baritone croon will be a stumbling block for some, but it's a taste worth acquiring. Herring's pipes ache and pine with the melodrama of his New Romantic forebears, but he's got soul also, demonstrated by his Louis Armstrong-channelling on the album opening title track. If the world works the way it should, On the Water might just creep onto a few year-end best-of lists. (Thrill Jockey)