Sometimes, deciding to listen to a band on a whim is one of the best decisions you will ever make. I have found many of my favorite bands this way, deciding to give them a chance after hearing about them from a friend or after perusing the blogosphere. Before going to bed last night, I made the decision to play “Tin Man” by Baltimore outfit Future Islands, off their sophomore release “In Evening Air.” I had read a little bit about them, and they seemed interesting enough to warrant a listen. Upon finishing the song, I was at a loss for words. I was floored, and I felt that I had witnessed something beautiful and wholly unique. That is a lot to say based off one song, but after listening to more of their material, I can safely put this group as one of my top discoveries of 2010.

Future Islands are a band that shouldn’t work on paper. They are an electro-pop trio fronted by a singer who could easily be mistaken for an English poet from a century and a half ago in both his lyrical styling and his overly theatric delivery. You would never guess that Samuel T. Herring was American born. He sings in what can best be described as a very convincing Victorian accent that can range from prim and proper to downright visceral, depending on the song. While his lyrics, especially on “In Evening Air,” revolve around the common themes of love and heartache, his songs are more like eloquent poems than simple songs. On “Tin Man,” the phrase “You couldn’t possibly find it in your heart to forgive me/You are the savage sun and scarecrow” feels like it is better suited for parchment paper than whatever he wrote the lyrics on. When delivered in his one of a kind voice, there is nothing left to do but to marvel at this talent that can easily be compared to Tom Waits of Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes in terms of its uniqueness.

With a voice as dynamic as Herring’s, one would expect that a full backing band is necessary in order to bring his ideas to life musically. However, there are only two men that keep him from singing a capella, keyboardist J. Gerrit Welmers and bassist William Cashion. Much like fellow Baltimore group Beach House, they are able to carve grand sound scapes out of a seemingly sparse instrument set up. Welmers has a great ability to make musical hooks that are both vital and awe-inspring, while Cashion plays his bass high and loud, giving the songs a further layer of depth. “Tin Man” is the perfect example of how their music seems to levitate, with an excellent steel drum line playing along side a prominent, catchy bass line. It would be easy for people to mistake the group as having three or four instrumentalists, the lushness of the music sounds too good to only come from two men.

When these elements combine, it makes Future Islands a sight to behold. They may never achieve fame because of their left of center sound, but for those willing to give them a chance, they will be rewarded with music that defies definition. In an increasingly crowded electro-indie/pop scene, they are a unique voice that deserves to be heard.

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