Friday, March 28, 2014

Future Islands - "Seasons (Waiting On You)" (Live on 'Late Show With David Letterman')

I haven't had a chance yet to really dig into the new Future Islands album, Singles, but I've been enjoying its first single, "Seasons (Waiting On You)," for weeks. On the album, it's a deeply nostalgic, lovely synth-pop track, but when the band played it on Late Show With David Letterman, front man Samuel T. Herring turned it into performance art.

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.