Future Islands, Singles (4AD Records)
I recently attempted to explain my obsession with Future Islands' performance on Letterman to a friend. "It's like synth-pop with a singer who acts like '50s Marlon Brando playing King Lear and dances like your uncle in a community production of West Side Story. Oh, and he does a death metal growl." She told me this sounded ridiculous. And she's right, it is ridiculous.
Everything about the band exudes an over-earnest theatricality that even the Arcade Fire has smirked away from. Except that it completely works. Lead singer Samuel Herring and his group have gone pedal down into the abyss of absurdity and ended up floating somewhere sublime. Singles, the third full-length from the Baltimore-based band, doesn't quite capture their unpredictable live power, but it comes closer than ever. It's rich in subtle ways: William Cashion's melodic, anchoring bass lines, Gerrit Welmers' wonderfully strange synth textures, Herring's fearlessly emotive vocals. Plus it packs a run of fantastic, well, singles; "Sun in the Morning," "Seasons" and "Light House" are just the ones stuck in my head now.
Singles may lack some of the ambient space of their earlier efforts, but really I'm not going to argue with hooks this good. Future Islands have all the feel of a band ready for a breakout, and they couldn't have come up with a better record to help them do it.