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Album Review: Mild Horses by Adult Prom

“It’s angsty as h*ck, baby!” (He didn’t say h*ck).

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By Joel Russ

Adult Prom is an indie-style solo project of Russell Allphin’s, formed in Salt Lake City in 2018. The live group features performances from members of the band Dad Bod and Ethan Martel on the bass guitar.

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The recorded version of this album was created by Allphin and Nate Pyfer at June Audio. If I had to describe what I heard on the album in one sentence, I would say it consists of Pink Floyd-style songs and grooves with a more modern, indie production.

This is a quality record. From beginning to end, every song is well-written, well-performed, and well-produced. I thoroughly enjoyed it in its entirety, from the sarcastic to the sincere. Allphin has a very tongue-in-cheek style of lyricism, but avoids coming across as immature or overly cynical. He’s undoubtedly a very talented musical mind as well, with clever melodies and modulations, setting his writing apart from most indie rock/pop I’ve heard. A huge aspect of this music is atmosphere, with thick, echoey textures and vocals, with the voice almost always doubled and tripled – often in parallel harmonies. Most tracks are covered in reverbs, delays, and choruses, but not in an amateur way. Nothing about the sound of this album says “local” to me. This is professional artwork deserving of national popularity.

Russell Allphin of Adult Prom
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“I think the theme of Mild Horses is that of transitioning from one stage in life to the next,” says Allphin. “As I was writing this album, I was going through lots of big changes in my life. I had recently left my faith, moved to Seattle, gotten married, moved to SLC, finished school, and was now diving head first into committing myself to seriously doing music.”

Allphin says that the album is a diary of his life during this time. It chronicles the pessimistic times, as well as the beautiful, hopeful moments. “I hope the overall message that I convey is that life is going to be filled with ups and downs, no matter what you do,” he says. “But as long as you are being your true self, it’s gonna make life much more meaningful and worthwhile.”

I think he succeeded.

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My favorite track was entitled “Hope You Are Well!” (A warning for the “darn” crowd, it’s an explicit track – *gasp*). The whole album is excellent, but this was the track I felt most drawn to by far. This may be because it’s the most “Floyd” song on the album, but I think it’s also just musically exciting on a different level. A masterful example of simply brilliant songwriting. It’s hard to sit still as I listen. I’m definitely adding this one to my workout playlist. A controlled, cool anger seeps out of the song, perhaps from the punchy, distorted bass, or the thick vocal texture. Regardless, this is one that will certainly be stuck in your head.

Adult Prom performing at Kilby Court. Photo by jmonizmedia.
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Allphin told me the impetus for this song was a postcard from a musical idol of his, which read “Thanks Russel! Hope you are well! Enjoy!” The sight of his misspelled name (Russell with one L instead of two) summed up the way he felt he was viewed by his faith: “You’re just another number here Russel. Or however your name is spelled.” About the broader appeal of the song, Allphin told me, “I think many people have felt that way. Not just in a religious organization, but perhaps at work, school, a relationship, etc. It’s angsty as h*ck, baby! Gotta have it!” (He didn’t say h*ck).

By way of criticism, nothing major comes to mind. It’s just a really well done record. If I were to be super picky (which I am), I would say that the snare is a little bit too “in your face” at a few points on the record, most noticeably in “Head in Hand” and “We,” as well as in a couple moments of “Baby, You’re a Star!” when the energy of the song comes down a bit. Not that it’s too loud necessarily, it just feels like it’s a couple inches away from my head. Of course, that’s also a matter of opinion and personal taste, and I’m sure many of you will disagree with me.

But that’s how good this record is. I had to get that picky. I’ve already listened four or five times in the last 24 hours, so this is definitely one that will end up in a few of my own playlists. Well done to my fellow Russ! Adult Prom has an awesome sound, I’m a fan.

Make sure to follow Adult Prom on Instagram. You can hear “Hope You Are Well!” below.

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