Music Review: “maybe I will see you at the end of the world” – Sydney Sprague

One of my favorite feelings is discovering a new song that feels so familiar and yet so fresh at the same time. The melodies have a nostalgic and classic quality and similarities to some of my favorite songs, despite having existed for only a short time in the public sphere. I often find these songs leave a deep impression on me and their attached artists end up becoming some of my most treasured. Such was the impact when I saw a teaser clip on Twitter for Sydney Sprague’s single “Steve”. Even the brief preview was enough to make me take notice and spark my interest. “This song is going to be special. This artist is going to be special. The album this will be released on will be special, ” I said to myself. Luckily for me, I’m always right (and totally have other people to talk to). Maybe I Will See You at the End of the World is an impressive debut release from an artist who has combined the best parts of their influences to construct a sound that is perfectly reminiscent of their heroes, holds its own when compared to contemporaries, and stands uniquely apart in the current catalogue of music.

One of the things that is both so baffling and dazzling about the album is how Sprague is able to swing from genre to genre and style to style and yet maintain an overall consistent and original sound. Yes the album may sit comfortably within the indie realm, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of diversity on it: “Steve” and “Staircase Failure” (with it’s Pixies-esque melody) have the angst and energy of any of the female pop rock ladies that dominated the radio charts in the late 90’s and early 00’s, while both “You Have to Stop” and “Quitter”, even with their interesting background guitar effects, have the backbone of folk country ballads. In fact, one of the most alluring parts of the album is the way Sprague uses these background layers of instrumentation and vocals to add extra ambience and atmosphere to already potent songs, similarly to her indie idols Death Cab for Cutie and The National. Sometimes the instrumentation and vocals are subtle and persistent, lulling you to sink in the melodies, while other times they are swelling and urgent, amplifying your own emotions. The result is a collection of meticulously constructed songs that showcases her exemplary skill, versatility, and craftsmanship.

Sprague’s vocals fit seamlessly into each of the aforementioned distinct stylings. One can’t help but hear moments of Stevie Nix, Laura Stevenson, Michelle Branch, and tons of indie “sad girl” contemporaries. But again, while the familiarities are present, Sprague’s own vocal sensibilities rise to the top to present a singer who wields control of her vocal chords with expertise and precision. Lyrically, this is true as well, as the album takes you through personal stories of self-doubt, unrequited love, isolation, resolve, and triumph. Sprague shows she can balance self-awareness with snark and sarcasm; one might be taken aback when she sweetly sings “I see couples in love/I hope they die/I don’t really, I’m not that violent/I just need someone around to hold me.” While this may be a lighter satirical moment, it’s consistent with the level of vulnerability and intimacy illustrated in all of the songs. Sprague clearly isn’t interested in anything besides complete honesty (“Staircase Failure” opens with the straight forward declaration, “I’m descending into hell/It’s the way you fuck my head up”). The way she finds compelling and thoughtful ways to lay bare her vulnerabilities is a sign of great maturity in the songwriting and only endears the listener to her perspective and voice more. If there is anything negative to say about Maybe I Will See You at the End of the World, it’s that the album clock’s in just short of half an hour, but by the time the final note rings out, you’ve already hit the repeat button. And that’s evidence enough that Sydney Sprague’s debut is going to be sticking with listeners for a long time, perhaps even until the world ends. If so, at least we’ve got some pretty killer swan songs.

Maybe I Will See You at the End of the World comes out February 26th, on Rude Records. Purchase it here.

Follow Sydney Sprague on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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