Friday, October 9th, 2015

Skylar Spence – Can’t You See

aka “Saint Pepsi”


Will Adams: There’s a reason why the lyric, “In the heat of the moment, I thought that I could kiss myself” means so much more to me than, “Gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty,” and it’s the context surrounding it. Skylar Spence recognizes his faults, and true to life, the negative thoughts return in the second verse. He was meek, he made shitty music, he couldn’t keep his friends straight. But with the help of the night, he’s given a glimpse into unfailing self-assuredness. The chorus launches from Skylar’s wallows into a bedroom, dancing in front of the mirror as he preens himself for the night. And then it’s all capped off with that one line — “I could kiss myself” — and it sounds like absolute fact. Lines like that, or entire songs built around them, always felt unattainable to me, the level of bravado unrealistic. But when the song dives headfirst, not into a second chorus, but an aggressive disco break, I feel like I could be the only one on the dancefloor, not giving a fuck. Sometimes “Can’t You See” sounds like my life, and it terrifies me in the best way.

Alfred Soto: “In January 2015, DeRobertis announced that Saint Pepsi would hence be known as Skylar Spence, as well his debut commercial album ‘Prom King,’ set for release in September 2015.[3] ‘Skylar Spence’ is the name of a song off his original 2013 album. The  name change was made to avoid confusion, as well as copyright  disputation over the use of the name ‘Pepsi.'” The choice of a new generation.

Jonathan Bogart: I really love the throwback disco; I really hate the smarmy self-impressed lyrics. I love the disco slightly more, though.

Thomas Inskeep: It took me about 15 spins until I figured out that Spence’s voice sounds for all the world like Ben Folds to me, but by then I didn’t care anymore, because even though his lyrics too are a bit Folds-ian (“Made a few good friends/But lost a couple dozen”) and almost too clever-clever for their own good, the production on this is so buoyant – and, crucially, “WOO!”-filled – it doesn’t matter. Sparkling like Bright Light Bright Light teleported into 1983, this jams hard. And the bridge! Oh, the bridge.

Katherine St Asaph: I’m not sure bedsit barbershop DJ Cassidy was a genre worth birthing.

W.B. Swygart: “Slowed some music down and called myself an artist” — obviously it’s pure coincidence that we’re reviewing this on the same day as a Sam Smith single. Anyway, the slightly self-loathing douchiness of first-album Killers meets a late-90s game show theme tune for four minutes. Spence is an amiable enough presence, but the spark in his eyes doesn’t illuminate much of interest here.

Brad Shoup: There’s the desire to charm, but not at all costs: the kind of goonish need that could further carbonate this sludgy disco-pop track. Sure, he’s no longer a Saint, but he’s praying for Owl City’s intercession.

Patrick St. Michel: Hello, my name is Patrick, and I listen to vaporwave. Despite forever-raging debates about “poptimism” bubbling up in a certain corner of music-centric social media, I’ve never felt a tinge of guilt listening to, like, Carly Rae Jepsen, but I’ve spent plenty of time wondering how big a moron I am for downloading slowed-down elevator music made by a teen with Garageband and Google Translate. It’s tough to get through the second sentence of the Wiki entry without cringing, but I also can’t deny how some releases have emotionally hit me (or how many hours I spent downloading .ZIP files of it). “Can’t You See” comes courtesy of Skylar Spence, formerly Saint Pepsi, another big name in the vaporwave universe I listened to a lot, and it makes me feel way better about listening to it. Not just because he nods to it — “slowed some music down and called myself an artist” — but because it uses the micro-micro-genre as a base to make something capable of connecting with people not obsessed with Greek busts. This has a proper hook, and he’s actually singing it, but the music emerges partially from samples, the backbone of Saint Pepsi’s best. Vaporwave featured a lot of garbage, but at its best it resembled (sometimes honored) Daft Punk’s era culminating in Discovery. “Can’t You See” (and Skylar Spence’s output since deciding to sing over his tracks) takes it to the next logical step, one those robots realized — that this potentially goofy approach to making music could result in popping and immediate songs anyone could get into, without lingering guilt.

Reader average: [7.5] (4 votes)

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