When Ryan DeRobertis announced the name change of his project from Saint Pepsi to Skylar Spence, there was no indication of any stylistic departure, though the change arrived with a musical shift toward faster tempos and more pristine production. Whereas Saint Pepsi had often used decades-old boogie, disco, and new wave as grist for the sampling mill, Skylar Spence is intent on trafficking more overtly in those genre aesthetics through his own production techniques and vocal contributions. With Prom King, DeRobertis reorients his music for his new full-band live act and winds up with an album full of tight and enveloping dance tunes.
Working with Carpark Records “gave me the confidence to ‘go big’ with the new material: to write pop songs with universal messages in the sonic wrapping paper that I’ve grown accustomed to,” DeRobertis says. “A few songs on Prom King are about specific events in my life—a party where I got too messed up, watching a friend’s life spiral out of control and trying to help—but I tried hard not to be too autobiographical because I want my music to unite, above all else. I’m much more interested in connecting with the listener than mystifying my personality.”
While DeRobertis’ previous long-players have been more amorphous collections in the style of beat tapes, Prom King is compact and cohesive, with the album’s varied stylistic references (new wave, UK garage, boogie) united through strong guitar melodies and Todd Edwards-ian cobblings-together of tiny vocal samples. “I slowed some music down and called myself an artist,” DeRobertis sings on lead single “Can’t You See,” acknowledging in his lyrics what is already apparent in the music’s tone—he can maintain fidelity to his vision while working in more uptempo, disco-based song structures. “Ridiculous!” and “Bounce Is Back” are big groovers that capitalize on jacking hi-hats and hand drumming, respectively, and both have an air of Balearic warmth and smoothness. On the title track, DeRobertis entwines a chorus of unintelligible but expressive samples with his own vocals—what feels like a synthesis of two approaches—and the result is an affecting pattern of build and release. More contemplative sophisti-pop numbers like “Fall Harder” and “Affairs” add a realist’s breadth of scope: thoughts of past foibles bleed into present-dwelling and dancing. Prom King is DeRobertis making sense of missed opportunities. His high school did not have a prom king; he has filled the position with an imaginative album of personal and musical revisionism.