Being in Finneas’ position must be a weird one. He has won all the awards you can, but the man on the street has no idea who he is. He can play with Coldplay one minute and then return to ‘normal life’ the next. Oh, he will be on stage headlining Glastonbury next year too. “Wait, who is this guy, Kendall?” I’m surprised that you are asking me that now after I have been hyping his solo work for a while, but Finneas is the brother of Billie Eilish. “Oh, riding her coat tails to fame?” ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is the co-writer and producer of all those Billie songs that you love. “But can he do it without her?” – stop asking me ridiculous questions, this is one of those records that in the old days I would be buying for my friends, or writing about in Manics fanzines or making everyone listen to at my house, I have not been this excited by an album for a while, as a complete work it is fireworks and glitter, smokescreens and honesty. It is fucking brilliant. Finneas is the real deal.
I’m a total lyrics person, and Finneas ticks all the boxes on that front, you are constantly having to stop the record and write down that great line you just heard. His songs tell stories that you may have heard a million times before, but the way his voice relates them like silk, but sometimes with an acid follow-up is totally extraordinary.
Take the opening track ‘A Concert Six Months From Now’, which talks about a band that he discovered with a girl and when they finished he could never listen to them again, but now he has bought tickets for the pair of them to see in six months time. “I’ve already purchased two seats for their show, guess I’m an optimist.” The connection between the love of music and the love of a girl is powerfully conveyed and the song is lovely, but again, there is an edge to it, will the girl go to the concert with him? Is he fooling himself? This totally hit a nerve and is a totally emotional way to open the record.
I wonder if their mate Chris Martin will return the Eilish calls (of course he will, sucking on the teat of the biggest thing is what ‘new Coldplay’ do best, ask BTS) when he hears ‘The Kids Are All Dying’, a great dissection of the price/balance of fame, versus trying to do what is ‘right’. “How can you sing about love when the kids are all dying?” “I’m whiter than the ivy on these keys.” “I tried saving the world, but then I got bored”, great line after great line, with a killer tune that brings together Panic! At The Disco and Lady Gaga in a way that you did not know you needed. One of my highlights.
If you’re looking for a song that sounds like his work with his sister, then The 90s is perhaps the closest match, also talking about the family in the lyrics. It looks back on an Internetless world that he and Billie never saw, but points at a part of fame you might not have thought about “You can sign me up for a world without the internet and easy they can find me, just by looking up my mom’s address.” This was the track that I first heard and got me ready for the album and it fits like a glove on the complete adventure, ‘member albums that are designed as a complete piece of work? Optimist is such an art piece. ART.
And then….in the middle of the record, he drops Peaches Etude, a 2:16 solo piano instrumental. These kinds of surprises are another plus and also make you wonder what other ideas he has cooking in his genius brain, both for himself and his sister.
‘Medieval’ is another highlight, essentially the best parts of My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days period, with Finneas already looking at the end of the run “I can tell what happens to the new king when he goes out of fashion”, whilst also kicking against the pricks “You should have kept that shit offline.” BRILLIANT. AGAIN.
‘Someone Else’s Star’ is an electro Adele, and who wouldn’t want that? It’s another look at fame, how easily it comes and goes and how he can see how he could very easily keep repeating himself and just give Billie the keys and ride the fame. “You wonder why the bad ones pay the bills” is a great two way line, does he mean Bad Guy, or literal songs he does not like? More questions, even through his fragile honesty. “They wanted you to stay where you are” OUCH.
‘How It Ends’ kisses us goodbye with the same mix of magic and questions – “What was the point of all of those migraines?” but also gives a beautifully positive ending. “If you wanna dance, you can dance again.” More lyrics for your notebook and a great track for your playlist – but don’t take one, remember I told you this is a complete experience! A fucking great one. Is it as good as the Billie sophomore effort? Yes, absolutely, it is a better experience all around. And I say that as an Eilish (B) fan who played that record to death, but this is just the best.
You know when a record pops up late in the year and you think “Is it too late to put it in my albums of the year?” Then, you look at all your favourites and realise that Optimist is in there, it is fucking brilliant, sonically exciting, lyrically inspiring, everything I love in a record. The best Bro/Sis since The Carpenters? YEAH I SAID IT.