I knew I would love Sydney Sprague’s new album somebody in hell loves you before it came out, and I was right.
Do you ever feel that way about records? You just know it’s going to be good? You just know it’s going to be exactly what you need, at the time when you need it? That’s exactly how I felt in anticipation of this album, and when it was finally out in the world, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
Sydney Sprague’s first album, maybe I will see you at the end of the world, dropped during my final year of college. Everything felt on the verge of imminent collapse, which is to say, I am terrible at dealing with change. And now, her sophomore debut also arrives during the moment of another major transitory period in my life – moving to Spain. Her album releases seem thus aligned for me, but it is not just this personal intersection that makes them works of transmogrification. They are intrinsically always working with an energy of relearning the self, a growing pain which is unique in its stretch, every time.
Somebody in hell loves you is exactly the sort of album that one needs when one is feeling the deep ache of isolation before the isolation even hits – when the act of separating yourself means you can see every ligament tear from the joint. When you’re gone and still flexing a phantom limb, still believing you can adjust your grip on a rail, even when you’re already in free-fall.
Sydney knows how to write a song that sticks with you.
Somebody in hell loves you is Sydney Sprague’s sophomore record. The record can perhaps best be characterized as alternative rock, though the underscored pop sensibility is certainly present as well. This is just to say, Sydney knows how to write a song that sticks with you. If you doubted it after hearing “Object Permanence” off her first record, it’s impossible to doubt it now.
The album kicks off with “if im honest,” a perfect album opener in the way that it announces itself, first with its bold guitar riff, and then with its opening lines, “I didn’t mean to let you down or be cold / Hope I see you around when I’m old / I’m running out of options,” before going back on everything with “it doesn’t mean anything if I’m honest, but I’m not.” You know exactly what she’s saying here, even when she’s all contradiction. Does she mean that that it doesn’t mean anything after all, a strange double negative, or that it means everything in the world? Somehow, it’s both. The kicker being that you can’t be honest if you don’t know how you feel, yourself.
Sydney’s emo influences are also constantly announcing themselves.
Sydney’s emo influences are also constantly announcing themselves. One need only to listen to “nobody knows anything” to clock the line “I guess Ohio is not just for lovers.” The callback to “Ohio Is For Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights is a sweet gem, bringing her in camaraderie with everyone listening, holding out a hand saying, “Hey, we share this, too.”
My favorite song on the record, or rather, the closest song to my heart, is one of the first singles, “overkill.” A song about how exhausting it is to be the one holding on, how exhausting it is to be drenched in the nostalgia of things, all while knowing that even if you go back, you can’t have what you wanted because everything is already different, anyway. Because you’re different. Or maybe about how you’re the one leaving. Much of the album employs the use of “you” – the second person – as a shield. It is recognizable to me because I certainly lean into this in much of my own work. Displacing the self in favor of the other, the simplest sleight of hand, the flimsiest of protections and shields against an honesty that might be too blinding, if you owned up to it.
On her newest project we are met with what it means to navigate a post-apocalyptic space.
Much of Sydney’s music revolves around the idea of what it means to still be around, after you no longer thought you’d be. Her first album, certainly, grapples with the idea of the world ending. As the record was created around the time that Covid hit, this seems pertinent. On her newest project we are met with what it means to navigate a post-apocalyptic space. An afterlife of sorts, especially once a couple old versions of the self have died off. What does it mean to still be around and still be a person that loves other people, from your corner of the world? Especially when you’ve outlived the timeline you had envisioned, after which there is no plan.
One of the most intriguing songs on the record is “god damn it jane,” a song that’s invested in the humor of never getting what you want. The song points to the importance of being able to laugh at yourself, when really you feel like crying. Jane is perhaps a friend, but perhaps just you in the mirror – forgetting your keys to the house inside, ruining a good thing because you can’t help it, standing in your own way.
The album is also certainly invested in thinking about what it means to get old enough to lose and find the meaning of home over again. To go back to the place you’re from and not romanticize it for once. On “hello cruel world,” Sydney sings “home’s just where I happen to be,” and that’s not a state of mind that you achieve easily. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to know, something you have to force yourself to relearn again and again, something to sit with.
This album is personal like a diary is.
This album is personal like a diary is. It cannot tell you anything that it doesn’t already know, anything that hasn’t yet happened. What Syndey knows, she shares freely, without prescription. Everything else is anyone’s guess, an unfurling that will likely snowball into another album. Being on the verge of a point in time after which you cannot predict what will happen in your life is frightening in the same ways in which it is exciting. Much of life, it would seem, is what you choose to lean into. What you choose to devote time and ritual to. Navigating is all there is, and at the end of the day, everyone loves someone that doesn’t occupy the same space as them. Physically speaking, or otherwise.
© Yoana Tosheva (11/25/23) — Special for FF2 Media
LEARN MORE / DO MORE
Visit Spotify to listen to the Object of Sound episode “Songs for the End of the World”, a podcast hosted by Hanif Abdurraqib and featuring Sydney Sprague.
Visit Sydney Sprague’s website to check out tour dates and find merch.
Follow Sydney on Instagram @sydneysprague.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: Portrait of Sydney Sprague. Photo Credit: Ellie Carty / @ellierosephotog on socials. Used with permission of Sydney Sprague. All Rights Reserved.
Bottom Photo: Cropped from the homepage of Sydney’s website: www.SydneySprague.com