On their new album In Evening Air, Baltimore's Future Islands forego the Day-Glo electronic pop of the Wham City collective they're usually associated with in favor of brooding and elegant New Order-style compositions. Singer Sam Herring gives some insight on the band's new direction with a list of what he's been listening to recently.
Fats Waller in London (Disques Swing, 1991)
I got this record when I was about 15, my dad picked it up for me at a yard sale, but I didn't put it on until recently. I was initially drawn in by the slow vocal track "Smoke Dreams of You," but upon further research I just became enamored with the man himself. His ability to write sad, beautiful, and often comical songs is still amazing. His voice—all his own. But it's his main instrument, the organ, that holds the most power for me. "The London Suite" tells it all. Soft, kinetic, theatrical.
Calling Out of Context (Audika, 2004)
True genius of his time, and of all times. Dance music for soft hearts with tons of cello and vocal delay. Reminds me of so much of what the Magnetic Fields would pick apart for years after. I just picked this up in L.A., though I already had it on my computer. I just wanted to hold it, and give it proper respect. If you don't know, now you know.
Charm of the Highway Strip (Merge, 1994)
The Magnetic Fields are one of my all-time favorite bands. Although I haven't really spent time with any of the last three albums, all else is deeply ingrained in my brain. This album was my introduction to the band some seven or eight years ago. "Fear of Trains," "Lonely Highway," "Sunset City," etc.—every track is great. Stephin Merritt's wry wisdom was always the catalyst for my heart, a writer who always took me just where I wanted to go.