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Future Islands' New Album Stays Smooth, Even As Veins Bulge

Future Islands' new fifth album is titled <em>The Far Field</em>.
Courtesy of the artist
Future Islands' new fifth album is titled The Far Field.

When Future Islands singer Samuel T. Herring performs, he mixes vein-bulging intensity with a curious kind of smoothness — the kind that, when it accompanies sweet dance moves, can launch a thousand GIFs in a single hip-sway. Memorable appearances on late-night TV helped make a left-field hit out of 2014's Singles and its best-known song, "Seasons (Waiting On You)," and now Future Islands' fifth album — The Far Field, out today — aims to duplicate that success.

Once again, the band sets the instantly identifiable singer's pleas atop chugging arrangements that meet at the midpoint between rock and synth-pop. And once again, Future Islands' secret weapon is a kind of fearless sincerity — in its lyrics, in its propulsive urgency and, yes, in its frontman's willingness to throw himself into performances with guileless passion. It'll take a few listens to digest the words enough to sing them, but you'll almost certainly be dancing along in no time.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)