By Devon Chodzin, ’19
Skylar Spence fans have been through a lot this year.
I say that because this album has been over a year in the making. The first single off this album, Fiona Coyne/Can’t You See, was released under Carpark Records in August 2014. As the Saint Pepsi name grew, the realities of intellectual property law forced Ryan DeRobertis, the mastermind behind Saint Pepsi, to adopt a new moniker- Skylar Spence.
Several tracks leaked between August of last year and August of this year, continuing to taunt fans. Finally, in August of this year, Skylar Spence set a release date for his first album under the new name, Prom King, for September 18th. As usual, it hit SoundCloud a little early, but, nonetheless, the wait was painfully long and it’s finally over.
Prom King begins with a track aptly named “Intro,” whose short duration and narrative structure are reminiscent of a ‘70s game show title sequence. “Can’t You See” comes next and offers the listener disco beats and yearning lyrics, elements which are interspersed throughout the album. Such obvious elements from pop are somewhat taboo in the indie community, so, in a weird, roundabout way, Skylar Spence’s disco-pop style is subversive.
Prom King’s third track is titled “Prom King,” unsurprisingly, and while very danceable, “Prom King” is a departure from the ‘70s-inspired disco pop from the first two tracks. Spence experiments a little more with sounds and shapes here, which shows us his chillwave side. Just as funky, “I Can’t Be Your Superman” plays like a trance song, maintaining the energy level from the start of the album so that it feels like the high is finally setting in. Track five, “Ridiculous!,” is also reminiscent of trance by blending mellowness and energy soothingly.
“Fall Harder” is the best track on Prom King, hands down. With an upbeat tempo, romantic lyrics, and an airy, immersive sound, “Fall Harder” can best be described as cute. “Fall Harder” is a lot of fun. At nearly five minutes this is the lengthiest track on the album, and I consider it to be a little long, but the sensation I get in my gut when I listen to “Fall Harder” is too good to ignore and I must give credit where credit is due.
In sticking with cute sounds, “Bounce is Back” enters like a lamb. This track is another one of the primarily instrumental ones on the album, which have to them a degree of fun, but still pale in comparison, if only in energy level, to the truly disco-pop tunes with all the glitz and glamor. The next track, “Affairs,” embodies that previously mentioned theme, and slays. Busy instrumental patterns with busy vocals make this track a commendable listening experience. There is a good reason why this track, which was released in the middle of summer on Sirius XMU, took off like a rocket.
“All I Want” is a respite from the high-energy tracks. “All I Want” entreats the listener to unwind and reflect for a moment before the album comes to a close. “Cash Wednesday” is appropriately placed afterwards. This track effectively hybridizes disco and chillwave and the strongest elements of each are both audible and harmonious. Compositionally, “Cash Wednesday” is a feat.
“Fiona Coyne,” a beautiful jammer we’ve held onto for a year now, since the Saint Pepsi days, acts as finale for Prom King. Despite the great lyrics, the truly outstanding part of “Fiona Coyne” is the percussive instrumental part. The beat is infectious and the track is designed to be a way for the listener to leave this experience feeling amped and ready to move more, only to be disappointed when it turns out that Prom King’s reign is actually over.
The reality is that Ryan DeRobertis didn’t write such infectious pop music for his health- he wrote it as a jab to the indie and pop scenes. In an interview with Interview Magazine, DeRobertis states “My album is sort of about the narcissism that comes with nostalgia.” With nostalgia comes a strange longing for the pop tunes we probably hated and for our surroundings to be the way we want to remember them.
Even if Ryan DeRobertis’s underlying agenda shows that Prom King is not exactly a feel-good album, I definitely plan on holding onto my favorites from this record for when I need a pick-me-up. The beat, the layers, and the patterns are simply way too satisfying for me not to indulge.