The Prom – Under the Same Stars

The Prom
Under the Same Stars

This is the second full-length and first on Barsuk, from the Prom who hail from the state of Nebraska but reside in Seattle. This piano-based three-piece is led by James Mendenhall who is adept at writing and heart breaking melodies and lyrics. The band crafts melodically building and emotionally challenging songs that combine with the band’s evident songwriting skill. And the songs are fleshed out by a flute, various horns, and strings to create a different touch when needed.
“An Introduction to (Under the Same Stars)” starts the disc off on a very somber and orchestral note. The violin and cello add a nice touch to this down-tempo song that sets a distinct mood right off the bat. “Guarantees aren’t Easy” sports a brighter melody with Mendenhall’s twinkling piano work and the roaring and crashing accompaniment of the rhythm section. This song has a cascading beauty to hit sported in the harmony of the vocals and performance. “A Note on the Kitchen Table” is a good example of how clear Mendenhall can be with his lyrics that add an extremely recognizble force to what he is saying. This song is about a husband trying to think about what to say in a note to his wife explaining why he is about to leave the relationship in the middle of the night. There are some great flute and violin performances caught on this song that sound great next to Mendenhall’s aching and somewhat confused vocals.
“Brighter than the Moon” has Mendenhall being accompanied sparsely by piano playing a drowsy melody for the greater part of the song. The rest of the band chimes in with crashing drums and repetitive bass while they add solemn backing vocals. “The City Gets Lonely” is a bit of a romping number with some up-tempo piano work and bouncing bass lines. There is some very nice trumpet and trombone work to accompany this song about finding a way to try to enjoy life. “A Note on the Kitchen Table (reprise)” has the husband picturing his wife reaction to his letter explaining his reason for leaving. In the end there is a picture of both parties realizing that what happened is for the better of both, and a new beginning.
The Prom has a very full, almost orchestral sound to their music even when they are at their most stripped-down as the basic unit. Mendenhall’s heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics and laxy vocals hit home on most occasions, which can be quite moving. The accompaniement on this disc deserves a round of applause for adding another dimension and different flavor to the melodies. Sometimes the strength of the lyrics on paper can seem a little overdone, but the music and vocal stylings of Mendenhall can overshadow that and make it work to his advantage. This recording is full of aching sentiments at a slower pace, but it has an up-beat feel that make this disc work well and makes it a worthwhile purchase.