Of the artists that originally burst on the scene with Los Angeles based hip-hop collective Odd Future, Syd, (born Sydney Bennett) has low-key been making some of the best music to come from the former group, both as the front person for The Internet and now with her first solo album, Fin.
If you had to describe Syd’s solo debut in one word, it would be ‘confident’. Fortunately, we have the luxury of using more. There’s not a moment across the album’s twelve tracks that feels forced or unfocused. On the slinky slow burn of Shake ‘Em Off, the album’s opening track, Syd sings about “drowning in doubt and frustration,” a common theme in her work over the years, but it doesn’t sound like it. However, a few verses later she talks about being “Back and forth and pacing / Young star in the making / Swear they sleeping on me.” It’s a track that beautifully illustrates the dichotomy of warring complex emotions, but never really conceding to one or the other.
On the album’s first single, All About Me, Syd unpacks, well, a lot. Through the course of the song, Syd sings about sleeping too much and drinking too much on the weekends, the importance of family and keeping your friends close. It’s a song about a self-described private person revealing personal aspects of her life. It’s this self-awareness is what makes Fin so engaging. On Know, with its skitter-stop beats and velvety background vocals makes it feel like a straight out of the 90’s sex jam. Here, Syd sings specifically about cheating, "Can't nobody know, nobody, no / Keep it between us, can't let 'em see us / It’ll be our secret, don’t wanna get caught creeping.” The song’s structure belies the truth in the next verse, “Is it really cheating, who says we're cheating?”
Syd, who is openly gay, sings about her sexuality quite often on Fin. Body sounds like Syd is trying to encourage a new partner ready – but nervous – to explore. “Baby we can take it slow, say my name / Don't let go, I can hear your body when I / Pull your hair, what’s my name / Girl I swear, I can hear your body babe.” Then, of course, there are songs that tackle more ambiguous sexual relationships like Smile More, paired with the short but just as sexually charged Drown In It. On the album’s closing track Insecurities, Syd sings about how her insecurities get in the way of being in love, “They’re the reason I was down so long.” The track is over a bed of keys that wouldn’t be out of place on an early 70’s Stevie Wonder record. “Who can love you like I love you baby/Never thought that I would ever see the day/That I’d walk away.” It’s a song that sums up the thesis of the album: knowing yourself.
Fin never strays from that path. For every action, there is analysis. There is reflection. If anything is 'fin' as the album’s title suggests, it’s Syd’s maturation as an artist. It’s an album assured in all areas – production, singing/rapping and with her emotions. For someone who speaks about her faults so openly, she sure seems to have very few here.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.