Album Reviews Music

Musical Advent Calendar #23 Future Islands – The Far Field

“The Far Field”, Future Island’s fifth studio album was released at the beginning of April. Every time a band I like announces an upcoming new album, I try not to get too excited: I’d rather have low expectations and then be positively corrected than the other way around. With this perspective in mind I heard the album for the first time while I was still living in Mexico City. I initially liked it, but not as much as I thought I should. Accurately enough the band’s bassist, William Cashion, said during an interview about Future Island’s creative process that “some of the best albums are ones you maybe don’t get initially”. As spring turned into summer, and as I understood the meaning of the album, my perspective on “The Far Field” slowly changed, and it ended up becoming my ‘saying goodbye’ background music.

The first song, “Aladdin”introduces the album with a distant sound that gets nearer and nearer, this selection appeared to me as a way of mirroring the whole idea of going away. When asked about it, the band admitted that it was all about “the beauty of the road”, and more specifically, the personal sacrifices they had to make to be able to perform in different places across the world, ending up in a constant state of take-off. The song, “Beauty of The Road” itself is simultaneously nostalgic and uplifting. It is about coming back to someone you left behind, it is about the inevitable temporality of meaningful experiences; and the unpredictable outcomes of the routes we take and how they define who we are.

“Cave” is another all-time favourite, the lyrics are truly honest and raw, they create a thread of questions that don’t achieve an answer. At the same time, because of the way the song is written, a sense of acceptance and calmness towards unanswered questions is created.

Most of the songs draw references from elements of nature, we have “Through the Roses”, “North Star”, “Ancient Water”, among others, which helps on creating a contrast between the complexity of the human soul and the simplicity of nature, also referencing the cyclic and rhythmic balance in seasonal changes. The way the tracks are arranged serves to understand it as a whole, the album works almost as a fractal; every song is somehow self-similar, but different enough to contain variations that makes listening to each fragment a completely different experience. This is also evident in the lyrics, which constantly recur to the same topic, but they do in such way that it doesn’t become repetitive or redundant.

When talking about the album, Sam Herring admitted that most of the songs are about a lover he lost a few years ago because of him living on the road, on the penultimate song, he is joined by Debbie Harry’s iconic voice, creating an almost conversational exchange that gives a palpable sense to the girl he is talking to during all the previous songs. The last song, “Black Rose” finishes with an aching cry that pledges ‘stay’, Herring voices the pain that this loss caused him, but he also implies how he gave sense to this loss by writing about it.

My opinion of the album started as an ambiguous one, but as time passed and days went on, it grew on and evolved with me. This was the album I was listening to on the plane from Mexico to Cardiff, this was the album that brought memories back and helped me find a piece of home, far from home. It became the soundtrack for these changing times.I truly admire the artists that are capable of creating pieces of art without building a personal distance from it, when you can tell that these songs are about their own fears, regrets and hesitations. It is through the artist’s vulnerability that we are invited to embrace our own.

Future Islands songs translate their personal feelings into a universal sound that rings through different spaces and backgrounds. This album is about the human need to grow through change, of searching, of leaving, of looking for truth and for ourselves in unknown places. It reflects how we are always searching for something, even when most of the time we don’t even know what we’re searching for. “The Far Field” represents the echoes, the images and memories that we carry with us everywhere we go; it refers to all those physical places and people that still exist in our minds, to those far fields that we mentally re-visit to find pieces of ourselves.


Luisa De la Concha Montes


For more fantastic music from this year have a look at our playlist!