I have a confession to make: I had only heard that one song Future Islands played on Letterman before I went to see them play Reykjavík Art Museum yesterday. For all intents and purposes, I expected a synth-driven indie pop band with a flair for the dramatic, but I got much more than I bargained for. I got abysmally fucking sad.
Experiencing melancholy through music is nothing new to me, but this show was profoundly different—the juxtaposition of energetic and danceable music and truly depressing lyrics meant that I didn’t fully accept that I was bummed out until I was back at the office, chatting with my colleague John Rogers about their performance (be sure to read his thoughts on the show).
I had been smiling through Mammút’s tonally gloomy but beautiful set earlier, but the subtlety in which Future Islands affected me didn’t dawn on me until they played “Beach Foam.”
“Standing on a beach somewhere, looking for something to see
As the beach rolls in, I swear, it’s bringing something to me
Maybe one day I’ll have what I want
Someone to stand next to me
Until then I’ll just wait and watch
As the foam rolls in—to me”
Those lyrics are pretty bloody terrible, which in turn was how I felt. A mate of mine said Future Islands was all about embracing the darker parts of life and growing stronger from it. I don’t quite agree with that, I felt it was more about being able to be at peace with what life throws at you, not having your wishes fulfilled, feeling gutted, and moving on. I guess that’s a part of what makes music so wonderful, it can mean entirely different things to different people and remain true throughout.
The performance itself was stellar, and I left it deeply touched. So touched that I only sought out the most upbeat rock bands that were playing that night. Through a combination of the New Zealand-born, Portland-based garage rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Icelandic hard rock revivalists The Vintage Caravan, I started recovering. It wasn’t until I was moshing with reckless abandon, slipping on the beer-laden floor to Brain Police’s “Taste The Flower” that I was finally able to crack a genuine smile.
I will see Future Islands again, they were great. But it won’t be at a festival – it’s simply too distressing.
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Posted November 9, 2014