Alexis Petridis’s album of the week: Review of “People Who Aren’t There Anymore” by Future Islands.

Alexis Petridis’s album of the week: Review of “People Who Aren’t There Anymore” by Future Islands.

The most recent time that the world heard from Future Islands was in 2020. Their album, As Long As You Are, hinted at a resolution after a turbulent period in the band’s past. In 2014, after 11 years of being a relatively unknown band, they suddenly gained viral fame and success due to their performance of Seasons (Waiting on You) on The Late Show With David Letterman. This led to sold-out shows and collaborations with iconic artists like Debbie Harry. However, it also brought its own set of challenges. The band was not satisfied with their 2017 album, The Far Field, which they felt was a forced attempt at mainstream success. But As Long As You Are reflected a sense of contentment, with themes of love and happiness in frontman Samuel T Herring’s new relationship. One track, Glada, was named after the Swedish word for red kites, a nod to Herring’s time spent in Sweden with his partner, Julia Ragnarsson, who starred in the Swedish drama series Fartblinda (Blinded).

Future Islands: People Who Aren’t There Anymore album art.

The subsequent tracks contain similar elements: The track “People Who Aren’t There Anymore” begins with “King of Sweden,” where Herring expresses his intense infatuation by reminiscing about his teenage years as a punk fan (“feeling like I’m 15, wandering with the Misfits”). In “Deep in the Night,” he proclaims “I belong to you, I belong to you” but in this album, these songs seem out of place and scattered as the main focus is on the deterioration of his relationship. The chorus of “King of Sweden” with the lyrics “you are all I need / Nothing said could change a thing” is now tinged with the events that follow. Herring’s trademark growl, which was once cathartic, now sounds pained within this context.

The Letterman appearance became viral due to Herring’s performance, which was passionate and genuine. In a world where everyone tries to appear cool and put-together, he stood out by seeming unfiltered and carefree. He danced without inhibition, loudly beating his chest and reaching out to the audience as he sang. This theme is also present in the relationship described in the text. Distance has caused it to fall apart, with efforts to stay connected despite being in different time zones. The Covid lockdowns only added to the strain, with the realization that their love was fading away while they were physically separated. The song “People Who Aren’t There Anymore” doesn’t hold back on details, delving into the earliest signs of discontent and self-reflection on past mistakes. The track “Give Me the Ghost Back” is particularly harsh, while “Peach” tells the story of a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to salvage the relationship. The album ends with a sense of resigned acceptance on “Corner of My Eye.”

The songs in this album may be slightly disorienting as they do not follow a specific order, but the music adds balance. Future Islands has chosen to improve their sound rather than completely change it in their seven albums. If you are familiar with their previous work, you may have an idea of what to expect here: consistent rhythms, contrasting dynamics, a bass sound influenced by Peter Hook, and synthesizers with elements of early 80s OMD that bring a touch of stadium rock to the chorus. Frontman Herring’s unique vocals are also present.

There are definitely some small changes in sound that can be heard here – more subtle variations in guitar compared to previous works, a rhythmic shift in “Iris” that has hints of West African influence – but the main appeal of this album lies in its use of Herring’s poignant lyrics paired with striking melodies. This is evident in tracks like the soaring ballad “Corner of My Eye,” the lush “Peach,” and the sparkling yet melancholic “Say Goodbye.” Overall, this album is too captivating and impactful to be dismissed as simply more of the same. Instead, it leaves listeners feeling moved rather than bored.


This week, Alexis spent time listening to music.

Nadine Shah is a singer, and her song “Greatest Dancer” is about self-love

Nadine Shah is an artist who sings the song “Greatest Dancer,” which celebrates the importance of self-love.
The drums in Thundering Adam and the Ants, along with the emotional vocals and alternatingly drifting and blaring synths, create pop music with weight.