It's not easy to hit a target when you aren't sure what exactly your quarrylooks-or sounds-like. Don't misunderstand:Liam Finn knew what he and co-producer Burke Reid wanted to accomplish, with FOMO, the follow-up to the New Zealand dynamo's 2008 breakout Til Be Lightning.But they also recognised that capturing that je ne nais sais quoi that makes or breaks one-of-a-kind songs wouldn't be a cakewalk.
'We wanted to make music that had an immediate effect on people" Finn explains.Nothing over intellectualized or technically flashy. Songs that connected with everyday listeners who simply appreciate tunes that trigger tapping feet or a lump in the throat. 'We wanted to create music that, once you got into it, you could appreciate was good... but when you first heard a song, there was just something about it that made you respond, instantly." That trigger might be as rudimentary as a specific timbre or style of production, but whatever the case,Finn knew all those cues had to come
from his gut, and be carried along by songs ripe with integrity.
Liam Finn already knows plenty about what audiences respond to. He toured with his father's band at the ripe age of 14, and cut two albums with his first band, Betchadupa. In the three years since his solo debut I'll Be Lightning and Champagne in Seashells (his 2009 collaborative EP with tour-mate Eliza-Jane Barnes), Finn has crisscrossed the globe as a headline artist and support act with Pearl Jam, Black Keys, and Wilco. He returned to New Zealand and his little beach cottage to write and polish the songs for his sophomore full-length, yet found himself a bit stymied by being out of the spotlight-where anyone who has seen him live will attest he's quite comfortable-and back in the small pond from whence he sprang.
That friction is at the heart of the album title, an acronym for "fear of missing out." "My family and most of my good friends are all musicians, so they're always traveling, too." Catching up via mobile phone or e-mail, looking at Facebook photos of fun in faraway places, "FOMO" peppers their exchanges. "It's a very natural way to be, but it's also a slightly tragic term, because you should never wish you were somewhere else." And since Finn made the record at the tail end of 2010, at the height of summer in New Zealand, it often lived up to its title. "Every day that Iwent into the studio was gorgeous outside.Friends would be calling, saying 'Come to this great party... come out and play!'" Sorry gang, there's a record to finish first.
Clocking in at 36 minutes,FOMO teems with seemingly off-the-cuff performances, and raw exuberance. The cavernous echo and angelic backing vocals of "Neurotic World" hint at '60s girl groups, but spiraling keyboards, vapor-trail guitars and the convoluted emotions of its lyric propel that album opener in unexpected directions. Irrepressible sing-along "Cold Feet" marries a sunny '60s guitar riff to the timeless sentiment of wondering what will become of a summer romance as autumn approaches. 'The Struggle" bristles with distorted guitars and vocals, anchored by a bass riff straight out of a vintage 1V action show, then quickly gives way to the cheeky bounce and sweet harmonies of "Little Words." On the crackling closer, "Jump Your Bones," Finn sounds almost tongue-tied with jubilation; it's the perfect send-off for a record that sounds incapable of keeping the artist's emotions in check-not that he'd bother to try.
"Imade I'll Be Lightning completely on my own, engineered and produced it, and that was quite a cathartic process at the time. This time I wanted to make a record that was truly reflective of where I'm at now." Whereas the primary feeling that inspired Finn's debut was heartbreak, FOMO encompasses a wider spectrum of sentiments:the artist's struggle to grow and evolve; the international nomad versus the small town New Zealand boy; and, happily, newfound love. "Making this record, I got to rediscover myself," he concludes. And that person is on full display throughout these ten songs.