CD: Future Islands - The Far Field "Baltimore trio back with their post-breakthrough album&quot

From The Arts Desk

The Far Field is the fifth album from Baltimore synth-poppers Future Islands, and the first since that performance on Letterman. In case you aren't familiar, a quick recap: the band were performing their single, "Seasons (Waiting on You)" when something mesmerising started to happen. Thumping his chest and screwing up his eyes, singer Samuel T. Herring suddenly became totally at one with the song. The performance soon went viral. It didn't just breathe new life into the band, though; it also put them under a new level of scrutiny.

All credit, then, that the boys haven't buckled under pressure or attempted radical reinvention. The Far Field is essentially business-as-usual. Take opener "Aladdin": it may be a little more polished than we are used to, and a little less Eighties, but the song still demonstrates the band's quintessential mix of cool synths and melodramatic vocals. That same basic, heart-on-sleeve recipe continues throughout the LP. And even where songs like "Time on Her Side" throw a little spice into the mix, the essence remains.

It's not until the second or third listen that the album's subtleties really start to reveal themselves. That's when you start to realise how many really great tracks there are here. Particularly those where Herring discusses feelings of separation and loneliness on the road. "Beauty of the Road" has a beguiling atmosphere of sadness. The synth part on "North Star" evokes early Talking Heads. Both show the band at their very best

Unfortunately, the trio are also stubbornly reluctant to offer much in the way of light and shade. Not only do most songs use a strikingly similar musical formula, they largely run at the same tempo. So when the pace is finally brought down on the slow, pulsating "Candles" it comes as a real relief. This sense of sameness is a real shame. One wonders whether the final product would have felt even more complete with a little more variety.

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