Bewilderingly uncertain mixtape music from one of pop’s most prolific producers...
'Optimist' Album Artwork

Finneas O’Connell is ready to release his first album. Eight-time Grammy award winning, Bond soundtrack writing, one of the most in-demand producers in pop Finneas O’Connell, or just FINNEAS, as he prefers to be known in this context. 

The 24-year-old’s creative partnership with younger sister and future Glastonbury headliner, Billie Eilish, has given chart-skeptics of all ages the perfect living, breathing example of why platinum-selling music can still be interesting, creative, and boundary pushing.

With the arrival of Billie and Finneas’ creative tag team, the pop rulebook has been torn down the middle for evermore.

'Optimist' screams otherwise - O’Connell colours firmly between the lines. His ideas do not stray beyond the conventions you’d expect for each singer-songwriter outfit he puts on from song to song.

There are tunes that could’ve been covers of Elton John, Sam Smith. More modern takes from the Troye Sivans of the world. The only thing separating them is O'Connell's intuitive production that, nonetheless, doesn’t quite match the bar he set for himself creating dark, daunting earworms for the past five years. It could happen anywhere, at any time.

Constantly mentioning said brother-sister partnership feels cruel, but inevitable. So it stops now. Because the maestro should not replicate the sound palettes that earned him his acclaim - though there is nothing stopping him from digging deeper into the creative ideas that got him here.

It’s frustrating. You want to shake him and say: “You can do better than this”.

Because we know he can. In between producing albums coated in the sibling’s musical chemistry, FINNEAS has released 20 songs under the mononym. The majority have been intriguing and full of promise. The end production of this period of creation can best be described as middling, full of unfulfilled sonic inventions and discoveries.

On to the good parts. There are some. ‘A Concert Six Months From Now’ does a great job of double entendre-ing heartbreak with the woes many of us have felt about our relationship with the arts during this pandemic. ‘Medieval’ hits a sweet spot, creating a gritty landscape of fame-commentary without coming across as disingenuous and pallid.

'Optimist' is an album FINNEAS enjoyed making. His sister has remarked that in the months it takes her to create one song, O’Connell is producing several each day.

“Why would you build your own house if you were a carpenter?” he told the New York Times from his Los Angeles studio.

“Why would I hire someone else to do something I know how to do and can execute myself? And it’s also really fun.”

It’s great that O’Connell enjoyed doing this. He has, and will continue to be, one of the most important producers of this century, with the credentials to back that.

Perhaps having fun creating the end product is the real triumph of this tale. It has been a rough 18 months, after all.

5/10

Words: Shannon McDonagh

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