Since forming in 2006, self-proclaimed post-wavers Future Islands have released more EPs and splits than we can name, and run in reputable circles with the likes of Dan Deacon and Weekends. But for their Thrill Jockey Records debut, the Baltimore-based trio carves out a niche all their own—and the result is nothing short of body rocking. What sets Future Islands apart from their multitude of synth rock contemporaries is and always will be frontman Samuel T. Herring, whose voice can fluctuate between a snarl and a purr like few others. Like past Islands’ offerings, Herring’s intonations take center stage here, providing a gravely counterpoint to the band’s oft booming, sometimes repetitive Casio tones and steel drum parts. And if it weren’t for the frontman’s magnetism, we might even mind. Instead, we’re drawn in by soft-spoken Herring, who channels his inner Morrissey (“Swept Aside”) at points, then embraces a reverberating, Kings of Leon-style wail (“Tin Man”) at others, creating a simmering tension that grows tauter over the course of Air‘s brief nine tracks. Aided by twinkling synths and bassist William Cashion’s impressive handiwork, Herring manages to sound both authentically dated (“Vireo’s Eye”) and unmistakably contemporary (“An Apology”). And in an age of throwback bands and bad ’80s rip-offs, that just might be the highest honor of them all.


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