Review Summary: poignant and cosmically-reaching
The first person I thought of when hearing Liam Singer’s Finish Him
was David Bowie. That’s not meant to be a direct comparison, because there are few who can stand in that sort of legendary company, but there are reasons I made the association. The vocals are theatrical yet very down-to-earth lyrically, while the music seems to sprawl effortlessly across space and time – sometimes transcending into heavenly realms. With styles ranging from avant-garde and classical to indie-rock, Singer has a wide array of influences at his disposal. While the majority of Finish Him
finds itself driven by cascading piano lines, there are also ambient atmospheres and grittier rock elements that surface sporadically and prevent the record from ever settling into one spot. It’s always mobile, always celestial-sounding – and that was quite a surprise coming from an artist whose name barely even turns up in search engine results.
On the opening ‘Nest of Nerves’, Singer provides an overture of sorts – dabbling in elegant classical pianos and belting out breathy, dramatic verses that paint a picture of letting go and floating off into space: “The moment that I lose control, I feel the most alive.”
It’s an accurate depiction both musically and lyrically; Finish Him
is a record that bends to Singer’s every whim, evolving effortlessly over the hour-long runtime without ever losing focus. ‘Test Tone’ delves into pop-rock territory, taking a catchy vocal-centric turn that makes it an excellent single. Then without blinking, the album returns to its very experimental, classically-influenced base in the jaw-dropping ‘ Until I Fall’ – a seven minute breakup epic that feels all too real: “Say it out loud; say I’ve changed and you don’t like it” / “Give me the truth, or a lie that saves us.”
Words cannot convey how emotionally compelling this track is when you really delve into the words that Singer has penned, and the pain can be heard in his voice as he recites each line. It’s moments like ‘Until I Fall’ that anchor Finish Him
to a very tangible, real place while the music seems to want to ascend towards the stars. It’s beautiful, unexpected, and wholly rewarding.
Singer places a strong emphasis on maintaining an atmosphere that is both poignant and cosmically-reaching at all times. There’s a number of brief but breathtaking junctures that add interludes or outros to the songs here, and they elevate Finish Him
to a level of free-flowing grace that perhaps an album with less of a classical inclination might not enjoy. ‘The Gambrels of the Sky’ is an eloquent piano/synth instrumental that feels like an extension of ‘Until I Fall’, while ‘Bending Away’ is a sprightly and uplifting bridge track that features an angelic female backing-vocal contribution; ‘Protection Poem’s ice-tinged pianos bubble with fervor atop a muted xylophone effect and some spirited organ contributions. Finish Him
may appear bloated with its hour long run time, but rest assured that nary a minute is wasted by Singer or his production team.
continues its dazzling journey without ever overplaying its hand. Right as ‘Apollo’ goes full Arcade Fire on you with its melodic verses that are clearly meant to hook, Singer wisely pumps the brakes with an ambient/lo-fi experiment in ‘Love Me Today’ – a brilliant track that lays everything on the table from breathing noises atop discordantly spacey synthesizers to the barely audible crackles of burning wood. There’s almost a touch of drone influence there too, which simply adds to the immersive aura of the song as well as the record’s expansive midsection. As Finish Him
weaves through indie-rock catharsis (‘The Devil’), jazzy horn sections (‘Down, Down, Down’), and string-laden, orchestral slow-builders (Still-Life), no stone feels unturned. It culminates in the ballad-like ‘I Want to See Sparks’, an eccentrically sung penultimate track that basks in some truly otherworldly lyrics: “The clouds start to glow, and the world gets you high, the trees breathe and sigh / “So if it’s my turn to leave, won’t you stand next to me…it’s spinning ’round and ’round, my feet are not on the ground…and I hear voices call within, and I want to follow them…”
Those are the final stanzas that Liam utters, before the song fades into ambient space and gradually washes in to the eerie instrumental closer, ‘French Goth’ – a track replete with haunting sound effects that sound like they could be anything from ghastly, apparition-like moans to a patiently hovering UFO. It’s the perfect way to tie together the lyrics that end the album, not to mention the dreamy atmosphere and adventurous, journey-like progression throughout Finish Him
If there’s a single knock against this surprise gem of a record, it’s that the theatrical vocals can at times feel a little over-the-top; perhaps even Disney-ish if heard in the wrong context or light. Liam Singer tends to strongly annunciate and include sweeping vocal inflections. It’s the same characteristic that led me to initially characterize him as Bowie-like – and even if that’s a far-reach comparison, it at least gives you an idea of the fervor and ambition that Singer has poured into this project. More often than not, his vocals fit smoothly into the grand instrumental concoctions swirling around him – just be ready for a voice that is different
; one that may be an acquired taste that comes with time.
From front to end, Finish Him
feels like a majestically composed magnum opus. There’s a varied blend of styles and genres, but they meld in perfect harmony rather than clash. That’s a credit to Singer’s songwriting ability, not to mention his diverse and advanced instrumental capabilities that make it all sound totally organic. This is actually his fifth solo album, so there’s some experience at the foundation of his musical career, but for most listeners this will be their first endeavor into Singer’s vastly imaginative world. If Finish Him
catches on – which it should
– then it will mark an incredible starting point for a number of future fans to latch on to.