Plumbiferous Media

In Evening Air - Future Islands

May 9th 2010
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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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