Album Review: Future Crooks – ‘The Wind EP’
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“Maybe you’re scared, maybe you’re out of your mind. Maybe you’re out there somewhere whistling songs into the night…” are the opening lyrics to “The Wind,” which serves as the title track of Future Crooks first release in just over half a decade. A familiar melody and the nostalgically playful sounds of MIDI serve as an invitation into the world that the band has been building for us in their golden age of silence. Emerging from the shadows of the internet in late April, the band announced that work on their sophomore album was on pause in the wake of COVID-19, but they couldn’t bear the thought of leaving us without a little something to try and ease the blow of life in quarantine. And, if I’m being honest, The Wind was exactly what I needed.
It’s been six years since Future Crooks ripped through the stratosphere and crash-landed into the protean landscape of my brain with the release of Future Crooks In Paradise. That record was jam packed with playful melodies, soaring hooks, self-effacing lyrics, and a disposition that packed just enough sunshine that it felt genuine. Songs like “Harry Takyama” played on the band’s ability to tie-in pop culture with ease and charm but felt right at home alongside other standouts like the cautiously empowered “Who Me?” or the bratty “Leave Me Alone.” The latter of which would become a song that I would often turn to when I could feel myself edging on woefully overdramatic. And, as much as I loved that album when it came out…I don’t think I was aware of the initial impact of this collision until about a year and a half ago.
It’s the little things like this that are often taken for granted. You don’t appreciate the light until all you’re drowning in the dark. Often, Future Crooks In Paradise was the nightlight that cut through some harrowing low-points in my life. I’ve talked ad nauseum about how out of my grasp the concept of control seemed for me as recently as two years ago and the songs that helped pull me out of it, but I don’t know that I ever paid fair respect to the songs that kept me dangling just above the waterline long enough that I could still breathe. That’s what this album, as playful and jovial as a lot of the songs that make up the tracklist were for me. So when the Future Crooks Twitter account lit up again and announced that in just shy of a week we’d be getting new music, I was overcome with the kind of excitement that can only be compared to a kid on Christmas Eve.
And to hear the way that “Summer Thunder” ushers us into this next era of Future Crooks made every goddamn second of the six year wait feel worth it. That opening riff crawls like the title sequence to the movie of my life in the time since we last spoke. The highs and lows laid out like a montage of memories before I’m ripped right out of it and spat into the present with Mike as he sings, “Oh, cursed king, where have you hidden your things?” In my head, he’s written this song for and about himself. He is the Cursed King and the hidden things in question are creative thoughts — something to share that has been deemed worthy of release. He continues with the kind of self-effacing snark that we’ve come to love from Future Crook as he sings, “Of all the old songs…this one’s the worst of all. Something’s not right with me.” Both the hero and the villain in this story, Mike has laid the groundwork for another handful of Future Crooks songs that are bound to run the gamut of what it means to be human.
“Robot Feet” follows suit with an opening lyric that is both vivid enough to elicit its own Scooby Doo short and jovial enough that it’s bound to become my Twitter and Tinder bio(s) at some point in the near future. Mike roars into the track singing “Stoned, scared and so bright. Running through cobwebs late in the night” with enough gusto that you’re immediately a part of that world. You find yourself becoming, at the very least, an NPC in the world that we’re being introduced too…even if The Wind is only a demo to hold you over until the full game is ready for the masses. Which…brings us to the title track of this EP. “The Wind” is a slight shift from the norm when it comes to Future Crooks canon, a marriage of both Future Crooks In Paradise and it’s Super Nintendo ready companion release, MIDI in Paradise.
Mike’s vocals are carried by the nostalgic sounds of retro-fantasy; the kind of music that carried players through the stories of early entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise and the like. It tells the story of a narrator that felt lost and without any sense of direction that has learned to lean into the wind and go wherever the breeze takes you. You might not get there at the break-neck speeds of the people passing by, but that’s not what’s important. What matters is that you get there. On a whole, that’s what The Wind has meant to me. Serving as the follow-up to a record that arguably saved my life and to have it be released in a time that is bookended by panic and uncertainty, it’s nice to have this handful of songs that feel like a hug from an old friend.
The Wind is available for digital download and on vinyl via Half Way Home Records.
Joel Funk |@joelfunkii
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