SYDNEY SPRAGUE channels her sadness, anxiety, and existential dread through driving guitars, shimmering melodies, and the deceptively sweet weapons of indie pop-rock and keen observation.
The Phoenix, Arizona singer/songwriter sharpened her creative voice across two radiant albums. Self-aware with a knowing injection of dark humor, her songs summon the best of 90s alt-rock and classic power-pop without sacrificing a melancholy befitting of the end times. Her music is intimate, vulnerable, confrontational, autobiographical, and strangely uplifting. Her sophomore record, somebody in hell loves you, is as devilishly saccharine as the title implies, boldly accessible and smart.
Take, for example, the summertime glimmer of the punchy “overkill” or the inescapable hook of the ode-to-dreaming that is “smiley face.” There’s an audible recreation of panic in the escalating loudness of “terrible places.” An ocean of clever nuance powers “god damn it, jane.” The diverse extremes anchoring somebody in hell loves you are both fresh and familiar, like the most timeless of indie rock.
Sprague, once described as “the punk rock Kacey Musgraves,” first fell in love with the unapologetic guitar-fueled pop of Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. Bands like All-American Rejects and Fall Out Boy followed. She next immersed herself in The National, and Death Cab For Cutie.
Gigs in local bars, restaurants, and hotels proved less than fulfilling until about 2019 when inspiration struck, and she put together demos for her first full-length. In 2020, she made the album at Hall Of Justice with producer Sam Rosson (Collin’s Beach, Danielle Durack, Exploded Drawing). Ex-Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla operates the Seattle studio, a location whose history includes important records by Death Cab, Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, The Decemberists, Modest Mouse, and Fleet Foxes.
Sydney wrote most of somebody in hell loves you during the pandemic lockdowns, and yet, it’s decidedly less angsty than its predecessor. “And not because I’m a less angsty person,” she clarifies. “Obviously, none of us were in a good place in 2020. It was a depressing time. But I didn’t want to wallow in that. I wrote more as an exercise to distract myself from my woes.” A lot of the songs became observational storytelling, exploring the drama of people around her and revisiting her past.
The earnest, candid, authentic, and sometimes surreal emotion explored on both albums are keys to the instant accessibility and relatability of Sydney Sprague’s songs. An emo kid who loved pop punk and grew into indie, radio, and everything in between, Sydney shares the same struggles as her crowd.
“I just hope that my songs make people feel better, in whatever way that’s meaningful for them in the moment,” she offers. “Songs have different pills for different ailments. Anytime I feel a particular type of way, there’s a song I’ll go to, either to be more present in that feeling or to make it go away.
“And if there’s a way for my songs to do that for other people? That’s the ultimate reward.”