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Album review: Future Islands’ ‘Singles’

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Smith Galtney

German dudes with funky beats, British punks at the disco, big-ass R&B voices over wafer-thin drum machines—strange pairs have defined synth-pop since its birth, and Baltimore’s Future Islands are another gloriously mismatched unit. The music on fourth album Singles is the same standard-issue mix of post-punky, happy-gothy, dance-pop tunes you’ve heard on hundreds of U.K. records in the last 30 years. But frontman Sam Herring—whose voice mines Otis Redding, Meatloaf and death metal for inspiration—knocks it right out of the park.

The first single, “Seasons (Waiting on You),” is wonderful enough on record, but to get the full effect, watch it on Letterman. Herring sells the crap out of the song with a performance that’s like a bartender stepping to the mic and moving a karaoke crowd to tears—mesmerizing, really weird and totally seductive. Once the buzz wears off, I’ll pay attention to the other nine songs, but for now, it’s Track 1, Letterman, Track 1, Letterman, back and forth, again and again …

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