New Zealander Liam Finn has been used to the limelight for most of his life now, having experienced touring with his father Neil of Crowded House from a very young age and gaining support slots with Wilco and The Black Keys off the back of his first solo record I’ll Be Lightning. Now, with the release of his second full length album, FOMO, Finn seeks to increase his profile amongst the ever growing list of prominent Kiwi indie-pop artists.
His sound is moulded around a laid-back, soulful vocal delivery which complements the more percussive undercurrent of layered drums and fuzzy bass lines, giving the tracks on FOMO a real pop drive. ‘Don’t Even Know Your Name’ uses drum machine, drums and tambourine to provide an energy and enthusiasm, sidelining guitar in favour of a more rhythmic approach. Think Jack Johnson crossed with Bedouin Soundclash.
Even stand out track ‘Real Late’- which conjures up images of a late night romantic rendezvous -includes an infectious funk inflected bass line that propels the track on over stunted surfside guitar. There’s a hint of a slight reggae influence that provides the album with a mellow optimism.
Despite this emphasis on beat and rhythm, FOMO is an incredibly reflective album as Finn ruminates from the safety of his New Zealand beach cottage about past loves, what could have been and new beginnings. His main strength is undoubtedly his lyrical prowess and ability to capture the everyday and imbue it with great sentimental significance. From the act of deleting images of an ex-girl friend off his computer in ‘Little Words’ to hearing an unrequited love in the room next door fixing things with Sellotape in ‘Cold Feet’. These images are recalled with a sincere spontaneity that makes the album an incredibly personal work.
The title, an acronym for “Fear of Missing Out” is as apt as ever as Finn’s anxieties over the future and fear of unfulfilled ambitions flows through nearly every track, giving the album a consistent theme and feel. This consistency is also a drawback however, as the album sticks to a similar tone throughout and never really ventures into the new or inventive. The reggae and funk influences here are only hinted at and never fully embraced as he sticks quite rigidly by his pop sensibilities, producing an album that is too safe, and could perhaps have benefited from being a bit more daring.
While the dreamy psychedelic tendencies of fellow Kiwi artists such as Connan Mockasin, Lawrence Arabia and The Phoenix Foundation have gained them much attention of late, Finn favours a more conventional pop approach, producing an easier but ultimately less rewarding listen. This is not a record that demands attention. Its sun tinted nostalgia and pop-funk beats make this a perfect listen for apathetic Summer days, but FOMO lacks the invention to take it out of the realm of background music, being a little too much of an easy listen.
BEST TRACKS: Cold Feet, Real Late, Little Words
SOUNDS LIKE: Bedouin Soundclash, Jack Johnson, Crowded House
FOMO is released on Transgressive Records on July 4th