This has been Future Islands’ year. Just before the release of their fourth album “Singles” in March, they performed on the “Late Show with David Letterman”. By September, Samuel T. Herring’s impassioned performance of a pulsating synth ode to waning love called “Seasons (Waiting On You)” had been viewed 2.5m times on YouTube. Instantly, Future Islands were dragged from dive-bar obscurity into the powerful currents of the mainstream. While plenty of bands might have burned up in the mania of media sensationalism, here was one that had been honing a style for nigh on ten years by the time they were caught in the lights. To see them in concert is to know this. Herring’s moves fall somewhere between Morrissey and a Butlins Redcoat: muscular, limber-limbed, with a pantomime intensity that makes it hard to look anywhere else. His bassist, William Cashion, maintains a thousand-yard stare that is comic by comparison. Together with a keyboard player and a touring drummer, they put on a show worth a hundred Letterman slots. It draws heavily on Future Islands’ earlier, dancier material, giving Herring ammunition for routines that inspire feverish dancing on the floor. A reminder that, while it may take years to learn how to manhandle the mood of a crowd, in 2014 it only takes one four-minute clip to change the course of a career overnight. ~ Hazel Sheffield
Singles out now. Future Islands on tour Europe, to Nov 8th; LA, Nov 20th
ROCK AT A GLANCE
David Bowie (album, Nov 17th). This should be the best Bowie compilation since the cool calm clarity of “ChangesOneBowie” . Drily entitled “Nothing Has Changed”, it comes in three versions: a triple CD, in reverse chronological order; a double CD, in chronological order; and a double LP, all shook up. All three include one new song, “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)”.
Bryan Ferry (album, Nov 17th). Bowie and Ferry on the same day: is this 1973 all over again? After “The Jazz Age”, Ferry strolls back to the present. Or perhaps the more recent past—his title, “Avonmore”, clearly summons the ghost of “Avalon”.
Stevie Wonder (N. American tour, Nov 6th to Dec 5th). Lately he has had more misses than hits, but this could be fabulous: the classic album “Songs in the Key of Life”, in full, featuring “As”, “I Wish” and the king of all, “Sir Duke”. ~ Tim de Lisle
Intelligent tunes: Six good songs to slip into your pocket
Jamie T: Zombie Ed Sheeran for grown-ups. Or, if you prefer, Joe Strummer for the young.
Leonard Cohen: A Street One of six gems on “Popular Problems”, the best album ever by an octogenarian. Read our Leonard Cohen Visual CV here.
U2: Every Breaking Wave Never mind that intrusive iTunes giveaway, here’s what they do best: rock with soul.
Robert Plant: A Stolen Kiss From an album full of hefty riffs, a moment of beautiful restraint.
Philip Selway: Coming Up for Air Not content with turning into a singer-songwriter, Radiohead's drummer is now making slinky adult pop.
Jessie Ware: Pieces After making it medium-sized in 2012 with her crisp electro-soul, Ware now has the lungs and lustre of a star. ~TDL
All songs at iTunes and Spotify (enter IntLifeMag)