TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Seasons (Waiting on You)” by Future Islands

This week, writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our collective top five, but did appear on our individual best-album ballots.

While I had heard and greatly enjoyed Future Islands’ previous album On the Water, I didn’t truly sit up and pay attention to the band until their appearance on Letterman in March. In the widely shared clip, frontman Samuel T. Herring became instantly notorious for his Gumby-esque dance moves and cloth-rending sincerity. The man seemed both on the verge of emotionally breaking down and physically breaking out of his body. It’s a fiercely physical performance punctuated by a voice both tender and guttural. All while wearing what might be the most Dad-core outfit to ever grace the Late Show stage.

It doesn’t hurt that the song they were performing was a pretty great one. As a fan of Joy Division, New Order, and its ilk, I’m predisposed to like Future Islands’ sound, which borrows from the ’80s new wave while never becoming derivative. Like Ian Curtis before him, Herring has a very distinctive voice. When singing slower tempo numbers, he can almost sound like an impish Vincent Price but when he’s soaring over choruses as he does on “Seasons (Waiting on You)” he takes on an unhinged beauty that cuts through the swirling synths of the music, giving what could be a standard dance tune an unexpected depth and urgency. The lyrics themselves are about letting go. “Seasons change, but I’ve grown tired trying to change for you,” Herring sings. But regret also lingers for what we leave behind and what we cannot be: “The summer will wake… but the winter will crave what has all gone away.” Such metaphors flirt with patness, but when the music hits that right mix of joyful and wistful you’ll be too swept up to care.