The Far Field (4AD)
They say that the only constant in life is change, but there’s something to be said for the familiarity of Future Islands. After skyrocketing to indie stardom following their 2014 Singles (and Letterman appearance gone viral), we feared we might lose the band to the big wide world forever. But here they are with their fifth full-length album, and that same heartaching synth-pop dance music we fell in love with all those years ago. A decade later, frontman Sam Herring is that same shapeshifting spirit, his voice sashaying across each track—full of longing, so potent and exposed—guided by William Cashion’s faithful bass, cocooned by Gerrit Welmers’ intoxicating melodies that permeate like a hazy dream. Sure, the trio has grown—their sound is more earthy and gentle yet urgent and robust; their bond has only strengthened with each mile of their tours. But they’re still the local muses we turn to in moments of wanderlust and heartbreak and joy, like confiding in an old friend. These new love songs and odes to the road continue to unabashedly embrace our emotions as they let go with abandon (“Ran”) or smash like a broken heart (“Shadows,” featuring the Debbie Harry). Future Islands is as pure and raw and imperfectly perfect as they ever were, just like Baltimore.
Ken & Brad Kolodner
The Swift House (self-released)
In the days of auto-tune and digital everything, the purity of Ken and Brad Kolodner is a breath of fresh air. Rooted in old-time music, the father-son duo makes effortless tunes that flow from their fingertips and hark back to pastoral days past. Their stripped-down arrangements let the music speak for itself, be it a toe-tapping instrumental or a narrative melody filled with soft harmonies and honey-coated vocals. Between Brad’s banjo, Ken’s fiddle and hammered dulcimer, and a few friends toting upright bass and guitar, it feels like a front-porch family jam session, and that’s precisely right—this being their third album together, recorded right in their very own home. An acclaimed instrumentalist and rising folk favorite, respectively, Ken and Brad combine their talents into a dynamic interpretation of traditional music, and while their covers are an ode to their folk roots, it’s their gifted originals where the passion truly lies. Get lost in the luminous slow build of “Sap’s Rising/Dull Chisel,” or the unexpected jazz influence of the title track. And be sure not to miss their kindred collaboration live at the Creative Alliance on April 15.