Rob Harvilla, my editor at Deadspin, described Herring's performance this way:
[H]e is absolutely mesmerizing. The power-schlub attire: black T-shirt smartly belted into black dress slacks, somehow recasting his hint of a gut and encroaching male-pattern baldness as assets, as seductive weapons. The knee-buckling electric-slide dance moves, so instantly iconic Dave worked them into his monologue the following night. The feigned-nonchalance-into-fist-pump lunge Herring pulls out for the choruses. The summer-stock-theatrical crease of pained sincerity on his face as he croons, "People change / But certain people never do," pounding his chest so hard his mic picks it up. The alluringly incongruous death-metal growls.
He combines the jovial menace of the Pixies' Frank Black, the erudite yearning of Morrissey, the hammy ardor of Tom Jones. You want him to take you on a date, in a Venetian red Subaru Outback, to the Macaroni Grill. You belong together.
[On the album] Herring has the crisp diction of a knighted English actor and the sneak-attack uber-goofball flair of Jack Black in High Fidelity (WWWAAAOOWW), but he wisely refuses to acknowledge that he's in on the joke, or that there's even a joke here at all, and there actually isn't: He sternly roams these ersatz-'80s vistas like Flight of the Conchords channeling David Bowie channeling King Lear.
Dude is dead serious. There is a song called "Sun in the Morning" ("She feeds me daily soul"); there is a song called "Like the Moon" ("She looks like the moon / So close and yet so far"). The death-metal growls resurface big-time on climactic ballad "Fall From Grace." These are karaoke songs for when you wish to disguise your crushing depression in a veil of pompous vocal radness so intense it makes your monocle fall off.
This is a great way of putting it, although I'd argue that there seems to be less calculated thought put into it than Harvilla suggests. Although Future Islands' members have art-school backgrounds, Herring is so daringly genuine that, if it's an act, it's an incredibly persuasive one. The dorky dance moves, the oddly placed growls: They're all really charming, almost sweet, and they complement the song's hopeful, pining tone. The performance is funny, but it's also brave, which makes it sorta inspiring.