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Future Islands - People Who Aren't There Anymore (Album Review)

Tuesday, 06 February 2024 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Frank Hamilton

Not so long ago, Future Islands vocalist Samuel T. Herring’s lyrics painted a picture of relationship bliss. Released in 2020, the band’s last album ‘As Long As You Are’ chronicled his experiences after relocating to Sweden to start a new life with actress Julia Ragnarsson. But then the pandemic happened.

Herring’s relationship faded with the pain of lockdown separation, and on ‘People Who Aren’t There Anymore’ he delves into its collapse, moving from that euphoric sensation of a new found love to one of sorrow. 

Opener King of Sweden is firmly stuck in the not-too-distant past. The single was released in 2022 and, although his relationship had fizzled out by then, there was unfinished business. It’s a stereotypical Future Islands cut, boasting catchy keys and a rousing chorus set to a glorious backdrop of synths.

In fact, it’s not until later on in the collection that things start to reflect Herring’s sadness. The slightly poppier The Tower stays on message after the opener, while the more sedate Deep in the Night reinforces the situation as he proclaims: “I belong to you.” 

But the brilliant Give Me the Ghost Back bolsters its subtle synth melodies with Herring’s usual heartfelt vocal delivery, his words finally biting: “How quickly we’ve become the things that we despised.” 

After that jolt of energy, though, Corner of My Eye, The Thief and Iris are average sideways moves, leaving The Fight to push things forward as Herring tells of how he “couldn’t stand the rain so I ran away”. It’s truly forlorn, but its atmospheric, quasi-slow jam core also sends a strong message of not giving up. Appropriately, the closer The Garden Wheel does throw up a little hope as Herring searches for guidance on how to move on.

He turned his hand to other side projects following the band’s previous album, including an acting debut in the series The Changeling, and these distractions obviously helped him get back on his feet quicker than most would manage. His focus might have shifted, but Future Islands haven’t missed a beat. This is an album of considerable weight, even if it sometimes exists within itself. 

Future Islands Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat July 27 2024 - LONDON Crystal Palace Bowl
Sun July 28 2024 - BRISTOL Bristol Beacon
Tue July 30 2024 - GLASGOW Kelvingrove Bandstand
Wed July 31 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall

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