Release Date: Feb 3, 2017
Record label: Columbia
For being such a breezy new voice, Syd--the charismatic songwriter and performer at the center of R&B group the Internet--is unleashing her debut solo album with a curiously resolute title: Fin . The artist, born Sydney Bennett in Los Angeles, is just 24, part of a loose kinship of musicians, like Frank Ocean and her brother Taco, who rode into public consciousness with Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator (much of Odd Future's early work was produced in Syd's home studio, at her parent's house). Though she and the Internet have released three albums together, it was the 2015 Ego Death that provided a breakthrough, gaining them a Grammy nomination and a certified smash in the Kaytranada-produced single "Girl.
Y ou could read it as an ironic reference to her newly blossoming career, but the fin most obviously referenced by the title of Sydney Bennett's debut album is the fish kind. Bennett obscures the swirling script of the album's artwork with a jagged-edged mohawk, both text and hair submerged in a colour wash that fades from aquamarine to a deep-sea navy blue. It looks like classically slinky and slightly saccharine R&B disrupted by androgyny, which isn't a million miles away from how Fin sounds.
Fin is not so much a grand unveiling of Syd the soloist, as it is an understated project that cements her reputation an exciting, forward-thinking musician. She is, after all, one of the more intriguing artists to emerge from the pool of 'Alternative R&B' musicians over the last five years. Here, her solo debut is clearly influenced by the more boundary-pushing R&B records of the 90s; it is Velvet Rope-era Janet Jackson and Timbaland productions thrown in a blender with added modern electronic sensibilities.
To the surprise of absolutely no one familiar with the duo's production, Fin has been curated with an exquisite ear for balance and aggregation, and on opener "Shake 'Em Off" Syd plays around with angular, industrial beats and a warping accordion-like melody as she brushes away the kind of breathless attention and scrutiny that dogged the OF family in their breakout years: "This isn't for your amusement / This ain't no pay per view / It's just the life that I choose / Shake 'em off". "Know", the harmonious nineties-noughties RnB cut that follows, is a study in clean, distinct layers of sluicing backing vocals and iridescent synths, over which she becomes the angelic and insatiable devil's advocate: "Don't let nobody know / Let's keep it on the low / As long as she don't know / We'll lay back and play a game". We've heard Syd's voice grow from the raw, crystalline treacle of DIY debut Purple Naked Ladies to the lustrous drawl of astro-funky Feel Good, and on the Grammy-nominated Ego Death she was soulful and polished.
If you haven't been clued into what Syd (real name Sydney Bennett) has been up to in the past few years, you've been sorely missing out. Syd's come-up has been noteworthy: after establishing herself as DJ and producer in the Odd Future camp, she quietly hustled with cohort Matt Martians to establish the Internet as the best R&B group folks were sleeping on -- first with album Purple Naked Ladies in 2011, then the shimmering Feel Good in 2013, and the Grammy-nominated heater Ego Death last year. With a "work hard, stay humble" musical approach, 2017 promises to be a key year career-wise for the 24-year-old.
“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.
Delivered after the Internet's Grammy-nominated third full-length, Ego Death, and appearances on Kaytranada's 99.9% and Common's Black America Again, Fin is viewed by Syd Bennett as transitional. Unless she and her Internet mates are sitting on a masterpiece double-LP that somehow puts all that valued past work to shame, there's no need to downplay this, compact, understated, and dimly lit as it is. Aspects of Fin do deviate significantly from the Internet albums.
Rising to prominence as one of the go-to producers and DJs for the Odd Future collective in the early 2010s, Sydney Bennett, AKA Syd Tha Kyd, was often confined to the background -- of the stage and the group's recognition -- owing to its founder, Tyler, The Creator, and his propensity for controversy (see the lyrics on 'She'), as well as the burgeoning successes of individual members' solo careers, most notably Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean. Having made her mark on the group with a selection of aggressively bass-heavy productions, the last five years have seen Syd come into her own not only as a producer but as a singer with her soul and R&B-influenced band The Internet. Following on from three worthy releases, 2011's 'Purple Naked Ladies', 2013's 'Feel Good', and 2015's 'Ego Death', this month heralds the release of Syd's debut solo LP, 'Fin'.