As the year winds down, so too does the Rentals’ Songs About Time multimedia project. While fans can still expect a few more Films About Weeks installments and plenty more Photographs About Days updates now through December, the music portion of the artistic endeavor concludes with this month’s release of The Future. Part three of a trio of EPs already filled with mellow songs, The Future might be the most subdued, understated Rentals release yet.
It’s also their most electronic. On tracks like “A Rose is a Rose” and “Irrational Thing,” the band adds a stuttering artificial drum rhythm and a children’s chorus to its trademark use of synths, strings, and frontman Matt Sharp’s smooth, soft voice. Despite the EP’s title, it feels awfully retro – think Talk Talk Talk or Naked Eyes, only much, much quieter. “Traces of Our Tears” continues the ’80s flashback before “The Future” gently takes the listener out.
On a certain level, The Future is the worst Rentals release yet. The mini-album lacks any major sticking points – at this point, I’d settle for another “Story of a Thousand Seasons Past,” let alone another “Waiting” or “Getting By.” The Future opts for something murkier, more contemplative. The result is something that elevates ambience over cohesive structure. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely hyperspecific mood music to come down on, which is appropriate enough for fall nights. Still, it seems like an anticlimactic end to the collection. Worse still, it’s come to my attention that the physical release has been pushed back to March 2010. As if I don’t already (kind of) regret my decision to put down $125 for a box set, now I have to wait almost a full year from the original purchase date to even get my hand on this sucker. I thought the Internet was supposed to speed up my access to music?