Future Islands officially broke big in March, after a video of the band’s performance of “Seasons (Waiting On You)” on Letterman went viral. Though much was made of frontman Samuel Herring’s sinewy dance moves and Morrissey-meets-Brando stage presence, many folks missed the point that all the style was in service to something grander—the group’s substantive and infectious take on synth-pop. Like much of the new material, “Seasons” unfolds majestically and generates anthemic energy that bursts through the yearning in Herring’s lyrics. These powerful, carefully crafted tunes will come as no surprise to those familiar with the Baltimore band’s trajectory over its three previous albums, countless shows in clubs and bars, and previous incarnation as Art Lord & the Self-Portraits. They know Future Islands is an overnight success, 10 years in the making.
As the music industry continues its shift from disc to download, it’s fascinating how some artists are using the CD as a conceptual tool. Rjyan Kidwell, who records as Cex and has contributed to Baltimore magazine, put together an elaborate framework for this set of 12 instrumentals, which he presents as music from Shamaneater, a fictional Playstation game circa 2001. Toward that end, Kidwell has packaged the disc inside an authentic-looking GameStop case and included an impressively meta walkthrough that folds wry commentary on both game and gamer into the instructions. None of it would matter if the music disappointed, and Kidwell crafts an engaging set of songs using old-school keys and drum machines to evoke an appropriate turn-of-the-millennium vibe. More than mere background music, these tunes command attention and transcend the videogame ploy. As a result, you don’t have to be a gamer of a certain age to devour Shamaneater.
Novella: A Love Letter to Culture Clash (self-released)
Crafting a song suite with narrative heft is another way to make good use of the CD format, and Mosno Al-Moseeki does exactly that on this release. The selections unfold like book chapters. Songs alternate with poetic narration, as Al-Moseeki, a native of Sudan now living in Baltimore, crafts a fable about a desert boy who follows his heart and journeys far from home searching for eternal truths. With a stable of like-minded musicians that includes Sahffi Lynne and Khaled Dajani, he immerses his tale in world-music fusion he calls “Desert Eclectic.” A folk-y soundscape steeped in tranquil rhythms, it’s a fitting match for quasi-mystical lyrics touching on spirit guides and “chakras of the heart.” Interestingly, Al-Moseeki sometimes sounds like Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis, which suggests just how far this “desert boy” has traveled and just how eclectic his music is becoming.
Mosno Al-Moseeki and friends play a CD release show at Teavolve Cafe & Lounge on May 31.