A Guide to Future Islands, Everyone’s Favorite New Band That Isn’t Actually New

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GIF via NPR

All it took was a square dude in Dockers dancing like no one was watching on national TV to launch Future Islands. Four albums and eight years in, the recent 4AD signees are 2014’s most surprising new sensation, with one small caveat: they aren’t new at all. Starting with their debut LP, 2008’s Wave Like Home, Future Islands have released some of the most consistent synthpop of their time. Given this, where is one to start with Future Islands’ discography? We’ve got you covered.

If you care about these sorts of measures, all four of Future Islands’ albums have scored between a 7 and an 8 on Pitchfork, with their new one — Singles, out this week — garnering them their highest rating. My personal favorite is 2010’s In Evening Air, but Singles is as good a starting place as any. It opens strong with their “viral hit” “Seasons (Waiting on You)” before moving into some of the band’s most nuanced songs, occupying the narrow overlap of lyrical vulnerability and merciless energy that’s typically reserved for female pop stars. But for those who want a sample platter of the Baltimore trio’s range in their past efforts, here are six songs and a live performance (that’s absolutely where it’s at as far as Future Islands is concerned) guaranteed to make you a fast fan.

“Walking Through That Door” From 2010’s In Evening Air

It’s the build-up that makes this song something special, the fact that frontman Samuel Herring doesn’t actually say the title until the track’s about to end. But when he does, he repeats it over and over again as though his declaration of love has possessed him.

“Tin Man” From 2010’s In Evening Air

Herring’s snarl is in fine form here, but his bandmates continually reel him in before casting him back out for the chorus. Much of Future Islands’ appeal, for me at least, comes from alternating between control and reckless abandon.

“Inch of Dust” From 2010’s In Evening Air

Before “Seasons (Waiting on You),” this was one of FI’s signature live songs — and for good reason. The chaos of it all comes crashing down live.

“Balance” From 2011’s On the Water

On “Balance,” Herring spits some real wisdom: “You can clean around the wound/ But if you want it to heal/ It just takes time.” In the meantime, allow Future Islands to distract you with this dance-party banger.

“Flicker and Flutter” From 2008’s Wave Like Home

Here’s as frenetic as these guys get.

“Little Dreamer” From 2008’s Wave Like Home

And here’s as tender as they get. This is a wistful and wonderful way to end a record, a comedown after a workout.

Live at Amoeba, 2010

Don’t be deterred by the 40-minute length on this clip. It packs a punch in the first few minutes, with Herring’s death growl never sounding better. You know he’s working for it based on how incredibly sweaty he is. Keep in mind, this was merely an in-store performance at the great Amoeba in Hollywood.