The Best Music of March 2014

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Future Islands

Last week my dad emailed me the link to the Rolling Stone review of Future Islands' Singles, inquiring if this was the same band Impose wrote about recently. On the barometer of band hype, “email from dad” measures near the top. Opposite that notch, near the bottom of band hype, lies our coverage for the past five years (at least); coverage we've been steadfast in providing ever since Samuel T. Herring changed our lives out in the rain at Party With Tables (we all look so young). It took a lot to not reply to my dad in anger, to not tell him that Rolling Stone's review might as well have been printed on a Hallmark greeting card and that David Letterman's reponse to that performance proves he's no longer human, but an android programmed to cackle and say 'boy, that's something' no matter who enters his studio. Instead I wrote back, “yeah Dad, how about that?”.

[Future Islands at Party With Tables, 2009. Photo by Sarahana.]

In advance of On The Waters, we'd already decided Future Islands deserved canonization, and not the musician's equivalent to sainthood, but true sainthood. With every Thrill Jockey release it seemed inevitable to be the one that broke big. We've been ready for this moment for a long time, ready since that day in the rain, since In Evening Air got us through breakups, since every time we saw them perform. Whether it was in our Brooklyn stomping grounds, a rogue visit to Baltimore, or warehouses in Detroit and basements in Sacramento. We've been ready for Future Islands to be the generational deliverers of a renewed faith. We don't mean faith in a religious sense—though it nears it—but as a universal understanding that being devoted to something will eventually pay off. That hard work, giving your greatest effort whether everyone is looking or no one is, will change your life for the better.

When Future Islands took the stage at our Austin Imposition this year, they looked out to a narrow dive bar, packed wall-to-wall with smiling, eager-eyed faces ready to dance and jump to every song. They could have opened with “Seasons (Waiting On You)”, the single that sparked the ascension, but they chose “Inch Of Dust”, a first album cut with the refrain “call on me / I'll be there always”. For that they are living saints. Through one small creative decision, Future Islands sent an immediate message that nothing has changed for them, and thus we have nothing to fear.

So who do we talk to about this canonization thing?

The Best Album of March 2014:

Future Islands, Singles (4AD)

You don't usually get to see the precise moment when a band erupts from murmur to scream. For Future Islands, it happened on camera: Their performance of “Seasons (Waiting on You)” on David Letterman’s Late Show suddenly rocketed the Baltimore trio to a wide national spotlight. In those critical minutes, singer Sam Herring held a gaze that reminded even viewers at home that Letterman's studio was packed with living people just off-screen. He seemed completely unconscious of the cameras that leered at him. He sang with an urgency that can rarely be held by a television screen or a YouTube window. Of all the small-label standbys to break big, Future Islands is one of the strangest.

Singles, Future Islands' fourth official full-length, is the band's clearest, firmest work. The band toyed with indie psychedelia on previous efforts and then they grew bold enough to drop it. Rather than stay safe within trendy aesthetics, Welmers and bassist William Cashion slowly tuned their sound to bolster Herring's exquisite affect. Before Singles, Future Islands were an indie pop band with a strange, charismatic singer. Now, they're a cohesive force biting deep into what pop is and what it can do.</p>

The Best Music of March 2014 (in no particular order):