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The Far Field
It was a weekend of stone splitting sunshine in Dublin when “The Far Field’ descended upon us. Simmering in with the first track, replete with William Cushion’s crawling bass lines, throbbing with Gerrit Welmers’ signature synth and bleeding with the hot emotion of Herring’s vocals. They’re back, and abounding with all of the ingredients that make another great Future Islands record, with Elements that have been stewing since the release of “Singles”, the album that shot them to fame in 2014.
I listened to the thing drinking Bloody Marys with my best friend on my neighbour’s roof, hummed along to it while the late day sun evaporated the previous night’s hangover; I danced around my kitchen to it, rejoicing at having the inimitable sound of the Baltimore trio back in my life, and it fared very well as the backdrop to any number of these things. But it wasn’t until the cold grey light of Sunday evening, pounding the pavement along the Grand Canal, in search of my misplaced serotonin, that the record’s true value began to sink in. The deceptively chirpy beat that had sound-tracked my Saturday faded into the background to give way to Herring’s fearlessly introspective lyricism. This is a man who mines so deep into the dark corners of his consciousness that it’s a thing of wonder how he doesn’t quake under the lofty weight of his own emotions. Let alone convulse, bound and chest pound with the exuberance that first won the world over on that faithful Letterman performance back in 2014. It’s Herring’s unabashed delivery and vulnerability combined with his lyrical prowess that is at the cornerstone of their music, underpinned by shoulder shuffling synths and baselines that beckon to the dance floor.
With over a decade of practicing in one Baltimore garage under their belt, not to mention over a thousand live gigs, it’s hardly surprising that their sound is so fine tuned. But what’s different about this record is that now the world is watching. Before the band catapulted onto the scene with ‘Singles’ in 2014 they remained relatively unknown, aside from a small but loyal following. I’d be lying if I said there was anything remotely innovative about this record in comparison to their previous albums. The album kind of melts into one grand expanse of broody, contemplative synth-pop with not a whole lot to distinguish one track from the other (save unmistakably distinctive vocals borrowed from a seventy-one year old Debbie Harry on the gorgeous “Shadows” duet). But that’s not the point. The point is that this is a band so unafraid of delving into the vast wilderness of human emotion, to revel in anguish and find solace in synth, that produce records that are at once gloriously and devastatingly human. And they do it oh so very well.