taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment



The first and last sounds one hears on Future Islands’ captivating third album On the Water is not surprisingly the sounds of water. Ambient sound was captured from the waters of the Pasquotank River as they gently brushed a marina. It prefaces their finest work yet with a sense of serene melancholy that radiates throughout the album. The waves take their time, just as Samuel Herring and company do in developing songs that aren’t as emotionally unrestrained as on their precursor In Evening Air, yet bearing the same steadfastness of the band’s previous incarnation of Art Lord & the Self Portraits. Like every recording produced by the evolved Greenville art-rock band, On the Water is a bedroom recording created in an Elizabeth City home. Here, professional mastering lends warmth beyond the mildewy bouquet of post-Hurricane Floyd housing off the Tar River that seemed to leap off of Art Lord tracks. Herring’s voice eschews the grunge of the previous albums as his full baritone bellows straight from his solar plexus and skids across the lavish synths of J. Gerrit Welmers. Melodically, guitarist William Cashion is the unsung hero of On the Water. Like the waves gently beating the marina, he negates his treble knob in favor of the quiet ambiance of low-tuned strings. The sparseness is the perfect accompaniment to Herring’s winsome couplets on songs like “Before the Bridge” where he croons, “I hope you have what you need/ I give you soul and body.” If In Evening Air was all tension and build-up of a deteriorating relationship, On the Water is the release and reflection, and just as satisfying.

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