“I be more than a God in my dreams,” sings Syd on single “All About Me”, before noting: “it’s wishful thinking.”
And maybe it is. Syd is many wonderful things on solo debut Fin - singer, producer, all-around seductress—but most importantly, she is human, and her album is filled with all that entails. Fin is full to the brim with sex and style, a slow-motion bacchanal that feels like a VIP party in spite of how low-key Syd keeps it. Steady beats underscore Syd’s effortless vocal delivery, itself so low-key that it makes even her most hyperbolic claims (“I would tell you that I am the greatest, but you knew that”) sound like casual statements, unpretentious and entirely factual.
That there are no added frills to Syd’s voice is a refreshing touch, and brings a sincere sensuality to every song, whether Syd is singing to strippers on “Dollar Bills” or a fretful girlfriend on soulful ballad “Smile More”. That lightness is a key element of the album’s sonic profile; each track sounds it lives in the space between deep sea and the surface, buoyant and spreading over languid currents. Every layer sounds poured in, from long bass notes to Syd’s smooth voice. The fact that mentions of drowning recur throughout the album—whether Syd feels engulfed by doubt and frustration on “Shake Em Off”, reflects on those she’s seen swallowed up by failure on “All About Me”, or prepares to soothe a lover on “Drown In It”—serves to further unify Fin‘s aesthetic.
The minimalist production lets Syd keep full control over the listener, offering intimacy without compromising amounts of vulnerability. She stands front and center, with a performance subdued enough to make it clear that she’s right where she wants to be, and if you want to listen, it’s up to you to come closer. Syd’s strength lies in that control, in calling all the shots in her music instead of letting anyone else make her jump from level to level. It means that her music sometimes stays in one place, but she sounds so right where she is that this hardly feels like a problem. “Body” is, by that measure, the peak of power, four enticing minutes that are every bit as voluptuous as the song’s title implies.
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It’s at the last minute and a half of closing track “Insecurities”, an old-school R&B cut on which Syd bemoans the difficulties of trying to leave a toxic relationship, that funk notes finally let Syd take her music a little higher and break out of the bubble she’s created for herself over the first 11 songs. Guitars, keys, and wordless background singers add a warmth to the song not present even in Fin‘s most provocative moments, and when Syd lets loose after a second iteration of the chorus, she puts her whole heart into it, turning her lamentations furious, rage and sorrow equally present in a way that makes this the boldest declaration of feelings that Syd makes.
Syd is well-prepared to kick off her solo career, with Odd Future and the Internet experience under her belt and a feature on Kaytranada’s 99.9% last year, and Fin is a solid start. She knows the business she’s getting into, and she knows what keeps her going. “Today I’m only human, but know that when I die / My grave gon’ be my music, my soul is living through it,” continues “All About Me”, and there’s no doubt that Syd has the skills and the fortitude to make sure that prediction comes to pass.
// Notes from the Road
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