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Album Review: Skylar Spence - Prom King

Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

Self discovery can be euphoric. Finding yourself can lead to a tidal wave of confidence, and that confidence is infectious. This confidence isn't based in complete knowledge of the future or perfect success without any mistakes - rather, it stems from an overpowering believe that whatever happens, you are going to figure it out. It's this feeling of euphoria that echoed throughout everyone's favorite sample-heavy disco masterpiece, Daft Punk's Discovery, and now it's the same feeling that guides Skylar Spence through his own sample-driven journey through house and disco for a new generation. Throughout his Carpark Records debut LP, Prom King, you can't shake the vibes - they are overpowering. Skylar Spence is a self-declared king of his own rite, and whatever world he is in, we want to spend more time there.

In January, Ryan DeRobertis switched up his moniker from Saint Pepsi (still delicious, but lawsuits contain high fructose corn syrup) to Skylar Spence. This switch came at a pretty fantastic time, if you think about it. One Carpark single had dropped before this point: the fantastic "Fiona Coyne"/"Fall Harder", both tracks of which would end up on Prom King. And while these are under the Saint Pepsi name, the space they occupy feels quite different than DeRobertis' prior work. For the past three years before that, he dropped tons of material on Bandcamp, including the much-lauded Gin City. Tracks like "Baby" tend towards the bedroom bass sound of Cashmere Cat and the like, while songs like "Mr. Wonderful" pile on the samples and space everything out until it reaches (what's left of) vapor-wave. But the Carpark offerings don't belong in either of these categories. Where Gin City is bass-heavy and inwards, "Fiona Coyne" is a bouncy, extroverted romp. Meanwhile, "Fall Harder" retains a bit of the vapor-wave drum sound, but the layers on top are lush guitars and DeRobertis's own lovely vocals - it's 100% accessible pop magic. In his evolution to Skylar Spence, this is the new normal. It's not afraid to shine brilliant light upon entry, and it's unabashed in its objective positivity. All of this fits DeRobertis nicely. The days to be content with small font festival placements are over - it's Skylar Spence's time in the spotlight. Crowning himself king of the dance, he makes his way to the stage with a comfortable swagger.

Prom King's similarities to Discovery don't end with the presentation and ideas - the sound of the nu house offerings herein is lush and alive and thrilling. Where "Can't You See" and "I Can't Be Your Superman" take front and center as the album's best single offerings, "Bounce is Back" cuts the vocals and ups the samples. I can't wait for this one to end up in every house DJ set I hear this fall. "Ridiculous!" is playful and unhinged. "Cash Wednesday" is overloaded with nostalgia and brings us home to "Fiona" with glee.

Elsewhere, Skylar Spence works with the sounds he built as Saint Pepsi, this time with double the gusto and boatloads more charisma. "Affairs" is a new wave heartbreaker. Here, DeRobertis details a relationship falling apart using only pure cane sugar. It hurts, but it's so easy to take in at the same time. Then, "All I Want" follows with one of the album's best offerings, a quintessential Saint Pepsi track to the core, with perfectly portioned bits of bitter and sweet trading off. The string samples here could rip your heart out, but the pounding beat will keep your feet moving until you hit repeat.

The full gambit gets thrown, very appropriately, on the album's title track. It's house, disco, and left field. It has samples and DeRobertis on vocals in equal parts both at full volume in both size and scope. While the verse is a spacey experimental mixture, the chorus is a crowded house party of insanity. Truly, it's the most telling cut on the record. This monster of sound, this is who Ryan DeRobertis is now, and the prom king's name is Skylar Spence. Prom King couldn't be a more self-descriptive LP for this exciting new chapter to the story. This is for sure: Skylar Spence isn't going back to obscurity, and he's walking forward with a bounce in his step.

Prom King is out today on Carpark Records. Grab it at your local record store on CD or vinyl. The album is temporarily streaming in full here. Skylar Spence will embark on a tour in support of the record in a few weeks. You catch him in Seattle at Chop Suey with Kero Kero Bonito on October 15. Tickets are here.

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