12 Songs, 46 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Seattle-based artist Brian Fennell takes his recording alias from the Welsh word “syml,” which translates to “simple.” And certainly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more direct, forthright rumination on desire, loneliness, and loss than his self-titled debut album as SYML. But if Fennell is the sort of songwriter who favors blunt, visceral language to convey his inner turmoil (“My head is a room and the room’s full of broken glass,” he offers by way of introduction), as a producer, he’s a far more enigmatic and elusive character. As he established in his previous band, Barcelona—and reaffirms with SYML’s calling-card single “Where’s My Love”—Fennell orbits the intersection of R&B minimalism, indie-pop intimacy, and electronic experimentation occupied by the likes of James Blake and Justin Vernon. But the thrill of this record is that you never know which direction he’s going to veer. Though the heart-racing synth-pop of “Clean Eyes” and the frisky electro-funk of “Break Free” betray his crowd-pleasing ambitions early on, Fennell gradually steers the record toward atmospheric oddities like “WDWGILY,” which spins a repeated ominous phrase (“Where did we go?/I love you”) into a disorienting future-soul swirl that conjures the mental fog of a post-breakup hangover.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Seattle-based artist Brian Fennell takes his recording alias from the Welsh word “syml,” which translates to “simple.” And certainly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more direct, forthright rumination on desire, loneliness, and loss than his self-titled debut album as SYML. But if Fennell is the sort of songwriter who favors blunt, visceral language to convey his inner turmoil (“My head is a room and the room’s full of broken glass,” he offers by way of introduction), as a producer, he’s a far more enigmatic and elusive character. As he established in his previous band, Barcelona—and reaffirms with SYML’s calling-card single “Where’s My Love”—Fennell orbits the intersection of R&B minimalism, indie-pop intimacy, and electronic experimentation occupied by the likes of James Blake and Justin Vernon. But the thrill of this record is that you never know which direction he’s going to veer. Though the heart-racing synth-pop of “Clean Eyes” and the frisky electro-funk of “Break Free” betray his crowd-pleasing ambitions early on, Fennell gradually steers the record toward atmospheric oddities like “WDWGILY,” which spins a repeated ominous phrase (“Where did we go?/I love you”) into a disorienting future-soul swirl that conjures the mental fog of a post-breakup hangover.

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