Future Islands makes us feel good
For Baltimore’s Future Islands, a group of outsiders who made a name for themselves despite sticking to their low key, synthesized pop, the long road to a big Austin City Limits Music Festival gig has reached a happy arrival on Saturday.
The group scored a usual hit in 2014 when singer Sam Herring has gone viral for his elastic and melodramatic performance “Letterman” from “Seasons”, just before heading south here from the southwest. Herring has a knack for everyday affirmations and self-singing songs, but he never seemed interested in bottling that post down via bigger, more pragmatic arena hymns for his fortune.
Last year, “As Long As You Are” was another double – a slow record that Pitchfork called “languid, heart-filled synth-pop that hits all its mark but smacks of diminishing returns.”
Yet here on the Honda scene, the unlikely rock stars have made the worth – and then some – do it in their own way: ballads about the human condition, distinct baritone vocals, and melancholy hooks. Who is not benefiting from therapy?
Future Islands have the experience to get it right: They’ve been a mainstay of the festival since 2012, long ago, when blogging recommendations were directly associated with independent fame and instant relevance. Let’s say they never make another great album, the Baltimore trio have a discography to lean on.
“I grew up as a kid watching ‘Austin City Limits’,” Herring told viewers at Zilker. “Let’s all have fun.”
With a range of drums, keys and bass that are simple and generally mundane on paper, Future Islands wins over guttural rhymes from the heart. And that stage presence – the herring twists up there like a melting cabin worker who doesn’t take the news he’s just let loose well.
He is sweating through his jeans and his black button-down short-sleeved shirt. He burns it down and moves on, introducing songs on stage with urgent and oddly specific messages: “It’s a song about putting everything you own in the car and getting the hell out of town.” . “
Before “Plastic Beach”, a relatable call to arms and an admission from Herrington: “I spent way too much time in the mirror thinking. It’s a song about self-acceptance.
His writing offers fleeting romance and pep talk before the song, as before “Seasons”, a song billed as about “that person you’ve been waiting for (about)”. He’s pretty transparent about what he wants to do. The song “Ancient Water” was billed as a “return to nature … set in the stream”.
The 10-year-old “Libra” remains a confident arm on the shoulder, a reminder that all you need is: “You can clean around the wound, but if you want it to heal: it just takes time.”
If that line lands for you, you’ve got a good group to watch next weekend.
Future Islands ended their set with “Tin Man”, a song about, as Herring puts it, “a man in search of his heart”.
In his writing he found it.