REVIEW: Future States - Casual Listener

Kelly Kirwan

Two weeks is a deceptively short amount time. Sure, fourteen days seems like a fairly long stretch on paper, but when it comes to artistic pursuits, it's only a blip. Which is why the fact that Future States created their debut LP, Casual Listener, over the course of a fortnight while shacking up in Northern Ontario is so impressive.

This new Canadian import has crossed our borders with a sprawling synthesis of genre, describing their approach as being derived from a polarized interest in "pop songcraft and improvisation." It's an appreciation for catchy structure paired with an affinity for exploration, a bit of risk mixed in with those tried-and-true methods. As a listener, the nooks and crannies of their style are fascinating to absorb. We have the easily-recognizable motifs (the careful layering of instruments, attention to chord progressions) and then the free-flowing style of band members who feed off one another's spontaneity. It’s an album that teeters into a delightful mayhem without toppling over.

"You Got it All Wrong" begins with a whirlwind of birds chirping before a simple drumbeat adds a straight, shimmying backbone to the melody. There are pauses throughout—clinking piano keys, the sputtering that so often precedes silence—before the beat picks up as if it never faltered. The track is sprinkled with fuzzy clips of reverb, their quick appearances varying in length and intensity. The vocals are characteristically soft-spoken, a gentle stream of lyrics that feel pensive and approachable: "You took the sun / You took the rain /You took the strange years / Just to keep them inside / The whole thing / Only to find that you're gone."

Then there's my personal favorite, "Wish You Well," which once again boasts a gentle, easy pitch, as the words fall together into one slightly out-of-focus thread. We rock softly as the lyrics reminisce, "There was something in the air that summer night / It covered our heads ... Another world flashed between us," before stepping into a chorus which serves as the song's heartbeat: "I wish you well, I wish you well..." Cue the swell of bittersweet nostalgia, replete with first loves and head-on-the-shoulder slow dances in your high school gym.

It's a beautiful, subdued song that feels wistful without the ugliness that regret can so often breed within us. The vocals are poetic and adorned psych-tinged guitar, as the song wonders what might have been if just one string had been woven differently into the fabric of our pasts. The conclusion completely changes gears, with an electric, head-bobbing beat followed by intermittent showers of static that makes for a quirky send-off. And when you reach this point in the album, you realize Future States couldn’t have it any other way. Their eclectic touches are subtle shocks to the system, and we welcome each and every one.