- There's no one quite like Omar-S. Alex O. Smith's interests include video games, street racing, blaxploitation flicks and perfect one-bar basslines. Over his decade-plus run, the FXHE records boss has joined a pantheon of larger-than-life house producers that could only come from The D. For his latest full-length, he doubles down on the titular bravado of 2011's It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It, naming it The Best. It feels like Babe Ruth calling his shot—luckily, it's Smith's most varied, consistent album to date.
Expert pacing is immediately apparent here. Opener "Time Mo 1" sees Smith on his best behavior, delivering a polite dub techno track that recalls his work with Luke Hess. It flows immediately into the spooky three-note synth lead driving "Take Ya Pik, Nik!!!!!" When the bassline rolls in, a kind of sequel to the one in 2012's "Wayne County Hill Cops," we're in business.
Jordan Rothlein said he found Omar-S's last album, Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, a little lacking in surprises. The same could not be said of The Best. "Chama Piru's" is one of his oddest tracks ever, with psychedelic, childlike vocals that could have come from Dr. Buzzard's "Sunshowers." Smith follows with a beatless track, "Ah'Revolution," which has talented multi-instrumentalist Amp Fiddler ad libbing a vocal. It initially sounds in touch with the Black Lives Matter movement, until you realize his revolution is also about "grabbing that ass" and "partying down." It seems safe to say there was some alcohol in the FXHE studio that night.
The Best has a convivial, Detroit "scene report" feel to it. Norm Talley steps in for mixing duties on a couple tracks. Kyle Hall and FXHE affiliates OB Ignitt, Tom Bugs, Diviniti and John F.M. lend their talents elsewhere. "Seen Was Set" is the one that really hammers in the hometown vibe. Fitting into the same tradition as Parris Mitchell's "Ghetto Shout Out" and Daft Punk's "Teachers," vocalist Big Strick runs through lesser-discussed Detroit clubs (Heaven) and DJs (Gary Chandler) over a dope disco sample. On "Smash," Kyle Hall flexes the kind of searching synth work heard on his excellent From Joy LP, improvising over Smith's heavily reverbed LinnDrum. There's an ethereal sadness to both producers' music, though Hall often gets there with a decidedly shambolic approach.
Closer "Heard'Chew Single" provides an appropriate "mic drop" moment. It's moody house built on an unusual foundation of rolling piano and snares, but John F.M.'s singing really sets it apart. Following up James Garcia's lusty vocal from "I Wanna Know," F.M. subtly switches perspectives, at first describing a woman out looking for a new man, before revealing she's his ex. He then delivers a withering kiss-off, telling her he goes home with "several pretty girls" after gigs and excusing himself to keep making that cash. The song is rude, skillful and vaguely beautiful, the best qualities of Omar-S.
01. Time Mo 1 (Norm Talley Mix)
02. Take Ya Pik, Nik!!!!!
03. Chama Piru's
04. Ah'Revolution (Poli Grip For Partials Nik Mix - Amp Fiddler Vocal)
05. You Silk Suit Wearin MuLaFuk'ka
06. Seen Was Set (Norm Talley Mix - Big Strick Vocal)
07. Bitch I'll Buy Another One!!!
09. AOS & Tom Bugs - Buggin Out
10. On Your Way (Diviniti Vocal)
11. Heard'Chew Single (John FM Vocal)