Multi-task couldn’t be a more perfect name for OMNI’s sophomore LP. This Atlanta, GA band’s newest effort, following its 2016 debut Deluxe, is the musical and lyrical equivalent of everything happening at once. With newly sharp production and even jerkier guitars than before, guitarist (and former Deerhunter member) Frankie Broyles, bassist/vocalist Philip Frobos and drummer Doug Bleichner create hectic but contained collages of young, restless, lonely, and broke twentysomethings overextending their way through life.
Multi-task makes its themes—both sonic and lyrical—apparent in its first 15 seconds. Opener “Southbound Station” wastes no time busting out a craftily plucked riff that sounds like it’s starting in the middle of a common-time measure as Frobos describes a situation virtually every listener is likely to have lived through: “You said to meet/at the center of/Lennox Square/I’m drenched in sweat/and you can bet/you can bet/I’m already there.” It’s matched with a twitchy twist of scything guitars and boxy drums.
“Equestrian” immediately follows in suit; a driving, addicting burst of dance-worthy post-punk with one of Multi-task’s funniest and most relatable choruses, during which “you can’t afford it/you know you’re worth it” sounds like SNL’s take on an infomercial. A good number of the tracks here—the alternatingly slick and concentrated “Choke,” the black-and-white gallop of “After Dinner,” the rump-shaking “Supermoon”—detail similar struggles with just as strong a jarring, overdriven focus, one that gives OMNI its own remarkable flair.
Of special note is how much anxiety OMNI can impart with so few elements. “Date Night,” which chronicles the worries about an expensive romantic encounter, uses merely one guitar, bass, and a drum kit to successfully convey his mental state. “Tuxedo Blues” gets by on an especially pounding drum line and Multi-task’s shrillest guitar work, Frobos’s bass again taking a backseat as he recounts a fairly eventful and stressful evening. “Calling Direct,” the album’s most traditionally pretty song, drops in a reference to depression—“the barometric pressure/is out of control/I can’t wake up/when it’s like this/the rain drops/just let me go”—that sticks out thanks in no small part to an instrumental that’s a slow-burn by OMNI standards.
This same song, however, points to an area in which OMNI could stand to improve. Confusingly and unexpectedly, before its gorgeousness can transition into something truly memorable rather than just admirable, it fades into an entirely separate and distinct stretch that’s more nimble yet less captivating, over before it ever takes off. Even though Multi-task eliminates Deluxe’s struggles with balancing lo-fi charm and a general muddying of OMNI’s songwriting strengths, the sharpened production accidentally emphasizes just how sharply the lethargy of “Calling Direct” and “Heard My Name” bog things down in the home stretch, and final track “Type” is only able to salvage the album’s flow during its sprightly last minute.
OMNI remains a band that’s best at its most berserk. “Equestrian” and “First Degree” share an especially impactful trick of shifting an existent drum beat to a double-time feel to ratchet up the tension; the latter track contains the album’s biggest tease, busting out a gigantic riff, with just 17 seconds left, that might feel at home on a Marnie Stern or even a Lightning Bolt track. “After Dinner” follows a terse, languid interlude with an ascending mess of guitar pounding that ranks among the album’s most thrilling moments. The expanded range the guitar takes on just under a minute into “Supermoon” is loud and proud, blowing the song up to even greater heights than its already compelling beginning. Multi-task hits its high marks when the band is doing as much as it can, or, if you will, multi-tasking.