Now, here’s the long story: Prince Daddy & the Hyena are a raucous emo act from Albany, New York. But, you could just as easily call them ambitious pop punk, if you were so inclined. Their sound is one of massive hooks, snarling and gravel-affected vocals, trilling guitar lines, and Jeff Rosenstock bells and whistles (mostly literally). Cosmic Thrill Seekers is a concept album about the long-felt fallout of a bad trip, each song melding into the next in perfect cohesion. From start to finish, the listener is treated to a personal, aspirational, and bombastic experience that might just be the culmination of not only a sound, but of a scene.
“I Lost My Life” begins the album with strummed chords and a gentle melody before introducing lead singer’s Kory Gregory growl of a vocal. Being unfamiliar with Prince Daddy & the Hyena’s work prior, I wasn’t expecting such a labored tone—honestly sounding more like the rough singing voice of Scott “Stza” Sturgeon than the clear and conversational tone of bands like Mom Jeans and Modern Baseball. It grows on you though, and it’s inclusion ties it into the greater tradition of punk music, rather than gating it off in the much more respectable emo community. And I think that’s an important element of Prince Daddy’s sound here. Cosmic Thrill Seekers is an amalgam of musical influences (I hear stirrings of American Idiot, Welcome to the Black Parade, and The Monitor being some of them), but its delivery is youthful and expressive. In the same way older punks balk at the theatrics of the genre, Prince Daddy wallows in them.
The angular solos and big shout-alongs of “I Lost My Life” lead to “Lauren (Track 2),” which could potentially be my song of the summer. It’s opening lyric, “Lauren! So glad you heard me calling!” is the sort of line that can unite a crowd. The riff that precedes it, noodling guitars punctuated with power chords, opens the song with explosive energy. It feels like hot summer nights staring into a wide-open future. Prince Daddy & the Hyena excel at writing earworms molded by their own idiosyncratic musical vision; throughout Cosmic Thrill Seekers hooky pop songs are transformed into frenetic punk rock, but they do it by knowing which buttons to press. Sometimes the guitar is this great rumbling force, sometimes it’s not playing nearly as much as you think it is; the band goes from tremolo leads to arpeggio picked bridges complete with falsetto vocals. If there’s one thing Prince Daddy understands, it’s that a song never need be boring. And this sense of constant change, of dynamic arrangement, makes for a much more intense and engaging listen than if they were played straight, so to speak.
One of my favorite songs, “Slip”, begins with an alt-rock chord riff with a couple drum hits as emphasis. From there, it explodes into a verse so emotionally intense that the melody comes out in spite of the Kory Gregory’s near-screams. It’s chorus is one of the highlights of the album for me, and it features a handful of lyrics that feel intimate and personal (“He says all my friends are so hard to read…”), which become the seeds for rousing anthemics. This is a common thread throughout Cosmic Thrill Seekers, and perhaps it’s greatest triumph: the sublimation of personal experience into something loud, vital, and exciting.
Without a doubt, this is an album that’ll come up again and again for the rest of the year. It’ll be talked about in top ten lists, and for a lot of us, it’ll be one of those albums that follows you around for the rest of your life. And really, it’s easy to see why. Cosmic Thrill Seekers has the songs to make it possible. The instrumentation is exciting, but nothing anyone who’s listened to PUP or Jeff Rosenstock hasn’t heard in some way or another. The concept is interesting, but Direct Hit! did a drug related concept album just the other year. But, the songs—the songs here form a steady foundation for everything else to be built on, and subsequently flourish. And now that these songs are out in the world, I, for one, am better for it. It’s as simple as that.