Fin is a curious title for the first formal solo release from Syd. If we’re taking the French route, the word translates to “end,” but the collection is more of a fresh start for the R&B performer. It’s her first major project since splitting from the multi-directional Odd Future family in 2015, and the first to arrive under the mononym of Syd rather than her longtime nom-de-plume, Syd the Kid. Maybe the album title is, instead, referencing an actual fin, an appendage to guide you along your way. While the singer is still actively fronting neo-soul unit the Internet–who are going on tour later this year– Fin demonstrates that Syd is more than comfortable swimming in her own lane now. As she puts it on “Nothin to Somethin,” a nocturnal ripple of boozy synth dips and chopped vocal hooks, she’s about to “introduce you to the new me.”
While pushing her own artistry to the forefront, Syd retains the non-flashy vocal style she showcased expertly on the Internet’s Grammy-nominated Ego Death release from 2015. Syd doesn’t bust out any especially audacious, multi-octave vocal acrobatics anywhere on Fin, but she’s likewise not going about things too blasé. Instead, like the simmering synth and music box melody that starts off “Shake Em Off,” she opts for a low-key and cool delivery. Initially starting off with insight about “drowning in doubt and frustration,” it’s ultimately a critics-dismissing number. Syd notes that even though she’s a “young star in the makin’,” there are lines to be drawn between her personal and professional life (“This isn’t for your amusement/This ain’t no pay-per-view”). While it’s a calm but firm opening statement, Syd still does paint a personal landscape throughout the rest of the LP.
Fittingly, an Internet-like jazziness creeps into “Smile More,” where lavender candle wax drips of organ support the subtle, smooth narrative about trying to please a lover with “good sex, good weed, good life.” Follow-up track “Got Her Own” is a murkily-produced coin flip, a piece that suggests some people don’t want what you’re providing; they’ve got it on their own. “All About Me” finds Syd switching to a braggadocious and tuneful triplet flow to float above fellow Internet member Steve Lacy’s earth-cracking trap production.
Though flirting with Syd’s own past, the record also pays homage to those that came before her. Outstanding early number “Know” comes across as a classic Aaliyah single, Syd’s breathy falsetto lines about a secret meet-up (“let’s keep it on the low”) coalescing with a twitchy, ’90s-period Timbaland beat. “Body” is another bedroom jam, but the arrangement is more spaciously paced, a slow grind replete with heavy breathing and quaking bass.
Just as Fin began with a bit of doubt, “Insecurities” is another investigation into Syd’s sometimes uncertain sense of self. Charged with complex jazz riffery and a velvet roll of backup vocals, it has Syd expressing that she’s moving past the comforts of an old life. “Now I’m walking away” she coos effortlessly, confidently. Whether it’s interpreted as a direct relationship number, or an allegory for exiting Odd Future, it’s the perfect way to conclude Fin. Despite the fade out, don’t forget that this is just the beginning from the recently rebranded Syd.
– review by Gregory Adams