optimist album cover

With his new album, FINNEAS sings his heart out in a good, but hollow, debut album.

“Optimist” released on Oct. 15 following his EP “Blood Harmony” two years ago. FINNEAS, otherwise known as Finneas O’Connell, continues to build up his portfolio along with his work on his sister Billie Eilish’s albums.

Coming in at 43 minutes, this 13 song album has some highlights, but FINNEAS begins to lose steam a little over halfway through. But the first leg of the album has a solid output with some standout songs.

Overall, FINNEAS sings well on the album as he matches the different tones and moods of the music. He can go from an upbeat pop song to a love ballad pretty effortlessly, and it works most of the time. Even when the song writing stumbles, FINNEAS can still sing with his whole heart.

Speaking of the songwriting, it’s a little hit or miss. Some of the better songs include good introspections and observations with some fun lyrics. However, some of the other songs feel a little hollow, almost as if he was just going through the motions to make a sad song or a love song. That being said, they’re all for the most part better than the songs in “Blood Harmony.”

Along with the song writing, the music production is pretty solid, with great piano and catchy beats. There’s a good variety of sounds, like the upbeat “Happy Now?” to the piano ballad of “Peaches Etude.” It’s a bit of a departure from his other production work, but it works for the most part.

As a whole, it’s much better than “Blood Harmony,” which felt more like he was just trying to make a “sad” song most of the time without understanding what makes a song sad in the first place. That issue is mostly alleviated here, but there are still a few fumbles along the way.

The first half of the album is really strong, with a few standout songs. The opening “A Concert Six Months from Now” sets the tone of the record as it reminiscences on a pre-COVID-19 time and a former relationship.

This leads well into “The Kids Are All Dying,” which is a little too centered politically to take a stance, but it works as an observational piece. The upbeat nature of the song contrasts with the darker lyrics, but it works well as some dark comedy. As a pandemic song, it’s not as good as the isolation disco of Charli XCX’s “How I’m Feeling Now” or the introspective and dark commentary of Bo Burnham’s “Inside,” but it works well on its own.

“Happy Now?” carries the momentum as it provides similarly dark lyrics with a danceable beat. It works in that same macabre and fun way that the previous song does. As a nice change of pace, “Only a Lifetime” is a great piano ballad about time and the pains that come with moving forward, especially by trying to move past that pain.

However, the first stumble on the album is “The 90s,” which is an okay song about FINNEAS’ youth. However, it doesn’t really do anything interesting in the production or the lyrics, ultimately just falling out of my mind pretty quickly. “Love is Pain” gets back on track for a moment, even if it might be a little generic as a love song.

But the biggest fall is the last half of the album, starting at “Hurt Locker.” Most of the songs from this point forward feel a little disconnected from the first half as it loses its groove. For example, “Medieval” tries to combine gothic imagery with what seems like a breakup song, but the music production doesn’t really match the lyrics as it tries to go for more of an anthemic style.

“Someone Else’s Star” feels a little more in line with the better aspects of the album. If anything it might fall into the background with the other sad love ballads that get released all the time. “Around My Neck” breathes a little more life into the last few songs of the album, offering a more sensual experience than the rest of the record. But there is an annoying tapping in the background that’s a little distracting.

The last two songs on the album provide a strong ending. “What They’ll Say About Us” has a good build up with a strong performance by FINNEAS as he sings about death and endurance. It almost doesn’t reach the high point that it builds up to, but it’s still solid.

The last song “How It Ends” is another great upbeat dance song with some heavier lyrics. It takes away some of the bad taste of the middle of the album and gives the whole product a solid conclusion.

“Optimist” by FINNEAS is a pretty good debut album, but it’s faults hold it back a good bit. Some of the highlights like “The Kids Are All Dying,” “Happy Now?” and “How It Ends” show promise, but some of the other songs don’t do enough to create a memorable experience.

It’s not terrible, as most of the songs are still good. It’s better than some other albums for sure. But it mostly lands in the forgettable side of this year’s releases, with maybe a few songs having the chance of cropping up in end of year lists later.

Fans of FINNEAS will probably gravitate towards this album, and it is better than his EP. But as it stands by itself, it’s just alright.

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