Not God
(Joyful Noise)
Add date: 5.28.2024
Release date: 5.24.2024

Apple Music
Joyful Noise

No. Finom kicks things off by telling you no.

Not God is theoretically the debut album from Finom because they've recently had to legally change their name from Ohmme (a name they pivoted to when they had to legally change their name from HOMME some years ago). You can ask them to go into more detail about the boring reasons why, but for now, the answer is going to be polite refusal. No. 

In some ways the legacy of changing names fits right in with Finom, co-fronted by Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart. Their influences run vast and varied, and they put a premium on change. This is owed in no small part to their home of Chicago, the life raft to so many persisters in musical adventurosity. There's a shared intention between Finom and so many Chicago artist friends that banks on change, change which then begets energy. Sometimes it's the energy to get the ball rolling and give birth to a warped melody, sometimes it's the energy required to generate a kinetic burst that can send a song in two directions that you would have never guessed, but never, ever, EVER, is it boring. That energy combined with Finom's dramatic vocal and musical gifts puts them in the peripheries of the legacies cemented by The Roches, Roxy Music, the B52s, Kate Bush, Cate Le Bon, and Wilco.

"Haircut," the starting gun on Finom's new album Not God, is a patient cruiser of polite rejection, setting the stage for a confident attempt at the pursuit of maturity on the stage of experimental rock and roll. The word experimental is delightfully modular, and in the case of Finom the experiment is both in the realm of sonics and songwriting tradition, as well as the eternal experiment of being in a band. 

Leaning into selectivity with your time and actions can make space for magical results, and Finom is rewarding us with their findings as they continue to devote themselves to the art of being alive. Produced by Jeff Tweedy in the Wilco Loft in their hometown, Not God is a marvel of growth, a progression from the roots of this collaborative band whose history can be tracked since their first album, two names ago.

Pressing play, you'll hear two voices. Cunningham and Stewart both sing, yet there is no question as to who is who. None of that uneasy vocal doppleganging that can happen when you're one of the Bee Gees. These are two artists with pronounced identities, and as they weave themselves into the songs they write those identities grapple in real time.

The joy of this is that we can avoid a common cliche about harmony. Cunningham and Stewart are brilliant harmonizers, but harmony doesn't equate to a utopia. We've all lived on Earth long enough to know that ain't happening. Instead, harmony can be a meditation, a momentary respite before resuming the tasks of the day. But in Finom's maws harmony can also be a fight, holding the line until the volcano erupts. This realistic depiction of a creative relationship jolts throughout the songs of Not God, and brings the whole damn thing to life. Finom are more than one person with more than one dream. But still, they grow together, harnessed by their shared loves of pop songwriting, honesty, and being generally freaky-deaky. Freaky in that way that is only really fun when you're doing it with a friend.

Finom wields an innate sense of humor with ease, not beating you over the head with it, but still filling you with gratitude that powerful art can move your molecules while not taking itself too seriously. It's another secret to growth, a final number in the combination lock of how to make maturity not an absolute drag. The ride we're on is all just a little bit funny, even when it's completely devastating.

"Dirt" hammers that notion home on track two, dropping a hammer of a lyric that could be a cliche before they turn it into a dig. "Salt of the earth, you were never. If I eat the dirt, will it make me clever?"  We are car crashed into the crossroads that we might be at for the rest of our lives. How can we grow but not lose sight of the spirit of being irreverent? How can we remember to scream into the ocean’s din while also pay our taxes on time? The music answers in kind. 

And as globe spins and advancements advance, it can feel essential to return to relationships that make us feel whole, that generate energy of strength and relief. Which puts double the weight on the reality that Sima and Macie continue to pledge allegiance to each other, at the base of the volcano, in the front seat of the car as it pulls off the highway.

Because if you're going to go through the charade of growing older, you might as well do it with someone by your side, who you can be brutally honest with, before falling apart into laughter. On "Hungry" the vocal confesses "I am selfish and insecure," a portal of honest assessment, taking a moment to live in adulthood before the song falls back into a childish attack on the strings of guitar's headstock above the nut, almost as if to prove that Finom will take themselves seriously only as long as they have to.

This installment of the band's output is finalized by an absolutely gorgeous effort, the song "As You Are," which spells out the memories of youth in a way that you only can once you've let it slip behind. But we can chase to get it back, and that Finom is the soundtrack to that chase. They have displayed a powerful understanding of that very plight, the dance to keep one's joyful past alive and harness it to process the tumultuous present and inevitable future. Just don't ask them to stop dancing, because you know what the answer's going to be.