When Liam Finn sings, “I knew I couldn’t have you / right from the very start / and that’s why you see right through me / the boy who ate your heart,” during FOMO’s earliest moments, he sounds humbled, but also resigned to his place in an existence often fraught with anxiety, obsession, maladjustment. It’s a good look on him, the Kiwi songwriter and son of Crowded House/Split Enz music vet, Neil. FOMO isn’t as long or excitable as Finn’s 2007 debut, I’ll Be Lightning, nor is at as aggressive or raucous as his live show, but that suits him just fine. After all, a good pop record, at the end of the day, is still a good pop record.
While FOMO contains the same breezy hooks (“Chase the Seasons”) that earned Finn comparisons to Elliott Smith a few years back, and certain songs here aren’t a far cry from early Shins (“Reckless”), as a whole, his third proper release—including the 2009 collaborative EP with Eliza-Jane Barnes, Champagne in Seashells—simply oozes poise. For every uneasy transition from gorgeous melody to noisy breakdown (“Roll of the Eye”), there’s an ominous, inspired synth (“The Struggle”) with Finn holding court over the top of it, like a seasoned songwriter.
The fact of the matter, of course, is that’s exactly what he is at this point. Finn’s been playing and touring professionally for half his life, and that opportunity has afforded him much. Which is to say: He’s really coming into his own, and he’ll have his masterpiece yet, probably a few of them. FOMO isn’t one, but it sure is a lovely listen, something that completists will likely point to one day as some of the old guy’s “good-but-not-great, early stuff.” Chances are, Finn is just fine with this.