In Evening Air
It’s only so often an album comes along that so entirely captures the imagination, so resolutely devours the listener, exists in its own time and place in a state of almost perfect stasis, free from time. The indie music blog world is often a cauldron of cynicism, and in turn, those who additively read music reviews often find themselves applying that same vitriol to whatever they hear. There is, of course merit to this – there’s a lot of junk out there. So it’s refreshing when a relatively obscure album comes out of the clear blue sky and slaps the crap out of you.
This is one of those albums. At first, it was easy to cite the influences. Most immediately: A Tom Waits devotee with a sultry growl and the same knack for narrative and expressive vocal phrasing. A bassist steeped in the tradition of Joy Division and New Order. Throw on top of that mercilessly catchy synth arrangement, and it’s easy to say you have Future Islands pegged. A little this, a little that, nothing new, right?
But then something else happens. The words sink into you like drops of ink in water. The longing seeps through you, and all of a sudden, you’re in the toothpaste aisle of the grocery store, and the words “Here in the tremble and pulse/With the rush and the weight of the world/I am a cannibal, known/Begging the lashes to break,” from “An Apology,” hit you like a wrecking ball. It’s an album that burrows inside you and blooms. It burns slow, unfolding in its due time. You realize you haven’t taken it out of your car for a month and would rather bite your hand off than change the CD.
What I love most about this album is that it is a fully conceived and fully executed statement. Artists, for the most part, create to glean meaning from their own lives and experiences. Their tangible work is their way of working through that which is intangible – love, fear, death, loss, growth, beauty, and so on. This, as an artistic statement, is complete – fully realized, deftly crafted, and above all, gorgeous and heartbreaking at the same time. From the album art to the lyrics to the arrangement: I ask myself why they aren’t incredibly famous by now. Attention to detail and expert craftsmanship have created something much larger than the sum of its parts.
The rolling basslines of William Cashion, the ethereal tapestry of synth and ambience of J. Gerrit Welmers, so expertly compliment the sometimes plaintive and sometimes vehement bark of Samuel T. Herring. With a devastating album cover by artist and former bandmate Kymia Nawabi, this album feels like a very special secret – one that you simultaneously want to tell the world about, but at the same time keep it all to yourself. It’s an album that effortlessly coheres; a group of narratives that at once stand alone and blend together. So rarely is music so poetic without pointing so directly to that fact. Future Islands weave their astonishing words into carefully crafted, beautifully executed, (and hey! danceable) songs.
With that, words from perhaps the album’s standout track (if only one had to be picked), “Inch of Dust”:
“A part of me — you have/A part of me — you hold/Apart from me — you stand/And there’s parts that you have stole/You collect them in the cupboards/Like the pieces of a puzzle.”
Future Islands play 529 tonight.