Sometimes you need an album that can get you through both the beginning of new love and the end of an old one. King of Prussia has created just that or, more accurately, a double album. The first half, titled Zonian Girls, is filled with happy songs that bring to mind ’60s pop. The second half, The Echoes that Surround Us All, is filled with less happy material, though they still make pretty tracks. There’s a whopping 20 songs, split equally by the 10 tracks that comprise each album.The neat thing about the double album is that each song on Zonian Girls has a sort of less-happy mate on Echoes. Though not immediately apparent, the arrangements on each of the pairs is similar. For example, the ninth and nineteenth track each have a country-twinge to them, the third and thirteenth are packed with happy tambourine. Some don’t match up enough to notice, but it is an interesting concept to listen for on repeated spins. It’s smart little details like this and clever lyrics that make this album get better and better with repeated listens.
Inspiration for the album came from a variety of sources and locations. Brandon Hanick, the songwriter and “band mastermind” spent years in Barcelona where he wrote all of the songs (one song, “Carolina, Carolina” even has verses in Spanish.) The album was recorded in Barcelona; Bordeaux, France; and Athens, Georgia, with 20 different musicians (the current line-up on the band is a mixture of the European and American versions of the band that recorded with Hanick.) Despite all of the international influences, King of Prussia doesn’t seem to have a British singer. And yet, there’s a (faux) British accent on every song. It works, especially on the Zonian tracks that channel the Beatles from back when they first came across the pond. It’s not just the accent: lyrics include Britishisms like “lorry” and reference being as rich as British bazillionaire Richard Branson. In case you missed it earlier, the band (and presumably Hanick) is from Athens, Georgia, though after years in Europe, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume Hanick could have picked up some Britishisms. But again, it works because it matches the Beatles/British Invasion theme. Zonian Girls stays true to vintage pop, even including “sha-la-la’s,” “ba-da-ba’s” and other such verbal fillers. In addition to the ’60s pop sound, there is a Smiths-like sound to “I’ll Dance With You,” there’s a country slant to “The Sun Will Never Rise” and “Another Whitewashed Afternoon.” “I Won’t Cry” brings a harder sound accompanied by distorted vocals that has a “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” sound. “From the Vine” is one of those slow, soft, sad songs with acoustic guitar that you gravitate toward when you’re about to break up with someone.
Being a double album, this record has a whopping 20 tracks. Some are more memorable than others (some of those happy ones in the middle just kind of blend together.) The one that stuck with me most was “Old Masks,” but only because it was so bizarre. “Old Masks” is right smack in the middle at track 10 and separates the happier songs from the sadder ones, though it really isn’t happy or sad. It has spoken word describing a bizarre dream (that almost turns into an advertisement for Good Humor’s novelty ice cream) over some trippy synth. It really doesn’t match anything on the album, but as the buffer between albums, perhaps it was meant to be a palate cleanser. It turned into more of a noodle-scratcher. Aside from lyrics about strange dreams, most of the writing is solid. The lyrics are smarter than the average pop love song.
The happy songs are definitely happy: they are upbeat, they are pop, and the lyrics are about new love or figuring out where you stand with a new partner. “Your Work Is Magic” is packed with quick drums and happy horns. The second half has the less-than-happy material. In case you couldn’t guess, “A Parting, A Loss” and “Divorce” take place after love ends, as is the country-twinged “The Sun Will Never Rise.” “From the Vine” is about stealing someone’s pure love and cutting them off. The sad songs aren’t overwhelmingly sad, some just aren’t happy. “Chain Smokin’ Woman” is a blues song about the flaws of all of the multiple women he’s dating, none of which will grow old with him. It’s more sassy than sad. Despite being on the second half of the album, “Your Condition” seems like it could fit on the first half with it’s upbeat sound and the story of two people finding that they have their heartbroken condition in common. “Never Young” also sounds too happy to be toward the end of the album, it could fit right alongside “1000 Leagues” (which is its “song mate”) except that in “Never Young,” the love story is all in the past tense. “1000 Leagues” asks “Won’t you be my lover?”, everything is still in the future.
For a shining example of the super happy tracks on Zonian Girls, listen to “Your Work Is Magic.” The ode to a magazine freelancer has horns and tambourines that make you feel as if the band is running through a park while celebrating how happy they are.