Supporting Future Islands without having one single to your name? Well, that’s just showing off.
Tāmaki Makaurau-based singer-songwriter D.C. Maxwell opened for the US synth-pop favourites at their sold-out Powerstation show a few months ago, despite not releasing any music; it’s the sort of privilege that likely provoked envy, even bitterness, from some musicians.
But then you listen to Maxwell’s finally released first single, “The Leading Man”, out today, and it makes much more sense.
It’s a remarkably assured debut, coolly stylish and lightly alluring. Maxwell confidently strides into the spotlight on his leading single, clearly eager to vindicate all the seemingly premature hype.
A preacher with a point to prove, he channels Townes Van Zandt and Nick Cave on the stirring track, unwinding an enthralling narrative. A more contemporary comparison would be cocksure troubadour Father John Misty, or even Future Islands’ own Samuel T. Herring, with Maxwell possessing the same impassioned and theatrical approach to performing.
Throughout the theatrical track, he exudes electrifying energy, swelling strings heralding his magnetic presence. He’s an off-kilter storyteller, but that’s what makes his debut so idiosyncratic.
But it’s Maxwell’s impressively elastic vocals that really drive the track, particularly as it reaches its climax. “I’m the leading man,” he says with a gentle quiver in his voice, unsure of himself and his motives, before he quickly gains belief and power. “Yes, I’m the leading man!” he shouts repeatedly, now emboldened, ready to seize his moment.
Maybe Maxwell is the leading man of his single; maybe, as the ’70s songwriters that he clearly so admires were prone to do, it’s actually based on some downtrodden man he once encountered on a weary night out.
What is clear, though, is that New Zealand now has a fascinating new experimental country-pop artist to follow in 2023 and beyond.
If you want to see what attracted Future Islands to the singer-songwriter, Maxwell will be launching his single at Whammy Bar on Friday, June 9th, with support from Violet Hirst and (CC)TV (tickets available here).
D.C. Maxwell’s “The Leading Man” is out now.