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The O’My’s - Tomorrow Music Album Reviews

The Chicago soul outfit’s latest album is well-arranged and reflective, content with being pretty and sitting still.

Throughout their decade-long career, the O’My’s have been defined by where they’re from and who they’ve worked with. The group has swelled to almost double digits and been shrunken again to its founding twosome, the vocalist-guitarist Maceo Haymes and the vocalist-keyboardist Nick Hennessey. On their new album, Tomorrow, their first since 2015, those singers surround themselves with a familiar Windy City crew: Chance the Rapper and Nico Segal (who you might know better as Donnie Trumpet, Kaina, a rising singer, and Carter Lang, the bassist who produced the majority of SZA’s Ctrl. The message is clear: No matter how big or small the actual group is, the O’My’s will always constitute a community. Even when they are a duo, they are a merry band.

Haymes and Hennessey have been playing together since they were teenagers and their chemistry reflects the depth of their relationship; they coax a similar, light-fingered touch from their respective instruments, passing the baton to each other so rapidly that it can be hard to keep track of who’s carrying it. Their willingness to hand off the microphone to each other, and to their many collaborators, makes Tomorrow a more sleepy, reflective album, content with being pretty and sitting still. There’s too little energy here, but the record’s palette is so bright that it doesn’t feel comfortably languorous. Instead, it’s just sluggish.

There are exceptions. “Baskets” is a strong single, snapping out of the lull of its lilting verses with an urgent chorus, one that crackles with the dramatic tension that much of the record lacks. “Walkout,” another standout, is more representative, a slow-burning song about a romantic partner whose company serves as a welcome kind of human sedative: “You are my love, you keep me mellow.” But the melody has punch and the song’s lovely instrumental touches are invigorating, and the track ends with a sweet message from Haymes’ grandmother. And the title track gets by on pure stickiness, its refrain undergirded by lovely finger-picking from Haymes.

Unfortunately, stickiness is a characteristic that much of the record lacks. Part of the problem is pacing. The first two tracks on Tomorrow, ”Starship” and “Niña Fresa,” are among the record’s least interesting and they hamper the album’s momentum out the gate, hamstringing more urgent songs like “Baskets” and “Afraid.” Haymes has a lovely falsetto, but its frequent deployment dulls the contrast between different sections of the record and even the more moderately-paced songs seem to crawl. “There’s too much waiting around” the duo croons on “Faces,” and it almost feels like an inadvertent take on their album.

None of this is a knock on the musicianship of Tomorrow. Hennessey is particularly impressive, offering dynamic backup wherever needed and occasionally even breaking through the mix with passages like the ones that sit at the front of “Faces.” But it’s instructive to note what happens to able guest verses by Saba and Chance, which pass in a flash, as if the rappers don’t want to draw too much attention to themselves. On “Puddles,” Saba’s verse arrives within the first minute but, perhaps looking to match the mild production, he fails to make much of an impact. Chance fares only slightly better, adapting one of his softer flows on “Idea.”

The problem is, there’s little room for star turns on Tomorrow, a record that feels so tailored to the collective that it fails to highlight any originality on the part of the individual artists involved. Haymes told Billboard about the spontaneity of collaboration in the city, saying that they “happen just by being in the room or being at the park or bumping into somebody.” Tomorrow’s best moments are characterized by that sense of happy spontaneity. But it’s interesting to consider what the record might have sounded like if the duo at its heart fought for a stronger sense of authorship, or if one of their guests had been a little less polite, a little less agreeable. As it is, everyone concedes to everyone else, and a soulful record lacks the bodies that would otherwise give it shape.

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