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Heavy Rotation: 10 SXSW Discoveries Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Future Islands at SXSW 2014. (Adam Kissick for NPR)

Heavy Rotation is a monthly sampler of public radio hosts' favorite songs. Check out past editions here.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And let's hear what's playing now in our series Heavy Rotation. This is our feature in which radio station program directors and public radio personalities around the nation tell us about a song they cannot stop playing. Mark Abuzzahab is program director of KXT in Dallas, Fort Worth, and he can't get enough of a song called "Seasons (Waiting on You)," by the band Future Islands.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU)")

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Abuzzahab just got to see the group at the annual South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

MARK ABUZZAHAB, BYLINE: There's kind of this stereotype of indie rock shows that people just stand there and don't move at all. But the dynamic-ness of Samuel T. Herring, the lead singer, breaks that stereotype, because he's got these moves. He's got this energy. And it's just - it's contagious. It sucks you in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU)")

FUTURE ISLANDS: (Singing) The seasons change, and I tried hard to just to (unintelligible).

INSKEEP: Future Islands, which is a Baltimore trio, has been getting a lot of attention after performing this song on "The Late Show with David Letterman" earlier this month.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN: I'll take all of that you got. Future Islands. That was wonderful.

INSKEEP: KXT's Mark Abuzzahab says the group has a special quality that's hard to put into words.

ABUZZAHAB: You think of great performances, like David Burn's "Stop Making Sense," one of the best concert films, there was just this creativity and this confidence that David Burn had. When you see Future Islands, Samuel is doing something similar. He's confident but yet moving around the stage in a way that just hasn't been done before.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU)")

ISLANDS: (Singing) 'Cause I've been waiting on you.

INSKEEP: It's something beyond Samuel T. Herring's exaggerated dance steps and twists. At times, he looks as if he's performing a dramatic monologue. His expressions are like those of a stage actor. His hand beats on his chest along with the lyrics, or he reaches high above himself. He can even resemble, some say, a young Marlon Brando. Herring's vocal range is also dramatic.

ABUZZAHAB: His voice, it's just unique. He's also got this passion and he's got something that he really wants to convey. I mean, you can tell that these lyrics are coming from a deep place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU)")

ISLANDS: (Singing) (unintelligible)

INSKEEP: Future Islands formed less than a decade ago, but the band sounds like one from decades before that. It has drawn comparisons to groups from the '80s, like Fine Young Cannibals.

ABUZZAHAB: I hear elements of The Cure in there, too. There are a lot of bands right now that are '80s-influenced, and it's kind of tough to do your own take on it.

INSKEEP: But Mark Abuzzahab says Future Islands succeeds in creating an authentic sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU)")

ISLANDS: (Singing) People change, even some people who left do.

INSKEEP: We heard about Future Islands from Mark Abuzzahab of KXT in Dallas. The song he's had on heavy rotation is "Seasons (Waiting on You)," from the new album "Singles." And you can hear more Heavy Rotation picks from South by Southwest at NPR.org/Music. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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