WVAU Top Music of 2011: #10

Jesse Paller, Alex Rudolph

#10 Album: Future Islands – On the Water

Future Islands‰’ On the Water isn‰’t particularly long, but it still manages to takes its time. Like the best break-up records, it knows you don‰’t have anything better to do with your day than sit around listening to music. It saves its poppy single for the final ten minutes and most of its songs begin with ambient passages. If Future Islands kept the mood and pacing but replaced their synth & bass set-up with electric guitars, boring people would inevitably call On the Water “dad rock.‰Û

As it is, On the Water is the latest entry in Future Islands‰’ quickly-expanding catalog (in 2010 alone the band released one album, three EPs and a split single) and it‰’s by far their most subdued release. Unlike last year‰’s In Evening Air, where you could practically hear his laryngitis setting in, vocalist Samuel Herring doesn‰’t scream any of his lyrics here, choosing instead to moan them in his breathy rasp. He‰’s dramatically articulating the sometimes banal moments of heartbreak and proving that there is power in a well-developed sense of restraint.

By Alex Rudolph

#10 Song: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Ffunny Ffrends”

This song is irresistible. It’s got the perfect recipe for utter euphoria- a relentlessly grooving breakbeat, walls of thick guitar, and the mischievous, elfin vocals of frontman Ruban Nielson. These ingredients come together to produce the stickiest, sweetest slice of psychedelia the year has to offer. The song‰’s verses possess a wistful feel, with Nielson‰’s falsetto echoing as if it were traveling out through time itself.

And then the chorus‰Û_ Oh, the chorus. This chorus might just have the power to bring peace to the world. It combines the melodic gift of the Beatles with a slight level of insanity, just enough to turn up the level of mirth to a point at which it reaches a too-good-to-be-true balance between the joyful and the deranged. My co-host and I witnessed this song when UMO opened for Toro Y Moi in September. Hearing it once made us seek out their album. The whole thing is great, but nothing can match the lysergic power of “FFunny FFrends.‰” But if you do check it out, be warned: the chorus may never leave your head.

By Jesse Paller