Plumbiferous Media

In Evening Air – Future Islands

May 9th 2010
In Evening Air - Future IslandsFuture Islands
In Evening Air
Score: 21

Future Islands, a fundamentally synth-based band, released its newest LP this past Tuesday. In Evening Air is at once an interesting and extremely boring album. The album encapsulates elements of indie, synth-pop, and even death metal; however, the fact that the best part of In Evening Air is undeniably the vocals puts the album in a rather sorry state of affairs, given their fairly awful grinding.

The best that can be said about In Evening Air is that the album contains a fair amount of diversity. No two tracks are terribly easily confusable, and all of the (nonvocal) sounds within a track fit with each other relatively well. That said, while sounds fit with each other fairly well, none of the band members are great musicians. The worst of the instruments is the drum box, which effectively plays one sound at a regular interval for the entire track.

The other instruments are, unfortunately, not much more developed. While other members do, in fact, play more than one note, the general strategy is to pick a short series of notes and repeat that. In fact, the only track that deviates from this pattern of undying repetition is “Swept Inside.” Unsurprisingly, the track, which develops nicely over its substantial length, is easily one of the best tracks on the album. Why Future Islands decided that creativity was unnecessary on any of the other tracks is a mystery, but they clearly pay for that mistake with In Evening Air.

Through In Evening Air, vocalist Sam Herring’s voice moves along the spectrum between indie and metal. Unfortunately, in this case the mixture doesn’t often work well. Herring is at his best on the indie side of the spectrum, where his gruff tones are solid but unremarkable. However, it’s usually at the point where you’ve gotten used to that that the growling comes in. Herring spends a substantial part of the album delivering his lines with what sounds so much like an exaggerated, strained scowl that, regardless of quality, it would be hard to take seriously. Combined with the completely lackluster instrumentals and lyrics, not to mention the incessant repetition, it’s not just odd – it’s quite annoying.

Perhaps it’s better that In Evening Air doesn’t have good lyrics; because, as much we enjoy good writing, it would be wasted on the rest of the album. Instead, fortunately (or not, for the listener), In Evening Air contains not much more than gems such as Herring insisting “I am the Tin Man!” Lyrically, the majority of the album is less, well, bad, than thoroughly pedestrian. It’s difficult to tell what Herring is saying, given the growling, and that which can be picked out isn’t worth the effort.

The one really remarkable thing In Evening Air manages is becoming tiresome, well before its end at just over half an hour – but that’s not exactly something to be proud of. Between near-painful instrumentals, overdone vocals, and frankly worthless lyrics, all capped off by as much repetition as the album could hold, Future Islands has, in In Evening Air, created a fairly profound failure. The few merits the album does still have prevent it from being quite abysmal – but it’s not all that far off.

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3 Responses

  1. Olja says:

    I used to want to be a critic myself. After all, it’s much simpler to dismiss other people’s work than to create something of your own.

    In the end, though, I decided I loved music too much to make a science of it. I couldn’t stand to dissect the living creature, and see it writhing there beneath my fingers–no matter how powerful feeling it gave me.

    If you don’t enjoy the song, why do you continue listening to it? Is it only so you can expose the flaws in it, and curse them, that you might avoid examining your own faults?

  2. Isaac Jaeggi says:

    “After all, it’s much sim­pler to dis­miss other people’s work than to cre­ate some­thing of your own.”–Good point Olja, but let’s talk about the music.

    This is the third full length album that Future Islands has put out, and personally, I love it. When you look at the bigger picture you can see how they have grown tremendously; lyrically, vocally, and musically.

    Sam Herring’s voice on Little Advances sounds almost prepubescent compared to In Evening Air. He has more control and I think In Evening Air is a step in the right direction toward a more refined Future Islands sound though that statement may be ironic considering the coarseness of his growl. While on the subject of his voice though; have you ever heard of anyone that sings like him? He wears his fucking heart on his sleeve when he sings, putting every bit of energy and emotion into each and every word. You have to be able to respect that.

    Lyrically, when I listen to albums by an artist I like to see change and maturity of the lyrics, but also a constant thread that links the albums together. There are definite themes and lyrics that link In Evening Air to Wave Like Home. It’s nice to see that they aren’t are sick of what they have done in the past and completely abandoned it. I thought it was cool to hearing references to their North Carolina beach roots where they formed in all three albums.

    Musically, I think In Evening Air is just proof that they are finding their sound. Look at Wave Like Home. It goes from “Pangea” which I would describe as weird/trippy/experimental to “Seize A Shark”; a cocaine-induced hype anthem to “Heart Grows Old” which sounds more like a song off of In Evening Air. Wave Like Home, while an amazing album, is admittedly all over the place making it hard to listen to unless your mood shifts as fast as the song do. Their latest album showcases a sound and rhythm that is consistent without being repetitive. This is Future Islands.

    The final point I want to make is the difference between hearing them on iTunes and hearing them live. These guys (along with everybody else in the Wham City collective) really know how to put on a show. While slightly quiet and standoffish, they know how to get a crowded hyped. They were dressed as fucking geometrical shapes god dammit. Oh, and the epic stage dives. Those were great. But seriously, if you ever get a chance to see them live, I strongly recommend it because even if you don’t like them as a band, as you know, music isn’t everything at a show.

    Sorry for ranting, you probably got bored halfway through. This band is fucking awesome. But that’s just what I think.

  3. Kay Oss says:

    Isn’t all singing an exaggeration at some point – over extending vowels and controlled breathing isn’t how I normally order coffee. Otherwise you might as well as dismiss anything that doesn’t fit the Conventions of Conventional and that is truly boring music. “Why don’t you sum up your abilities as a critic by writing all your reviews as: “Too weird … error error…The more I hate what you love = critic” (end with robot dance). It may be that Future Islands is just too musically advanced and you are just too slow to catch up. Dismissing the lyrics for being simple demonstrates your lack of depth in appreciating the nuances in saying something succinctly. So to dismiss an albumn just because its style isn’t just your cup of tea is just being critical and not a critique…

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