Album Review: Sydney Sprague - Maybe I Will See You at The End of The World

I used to be afraid of death, though in retrospect, it seems unfounded. To my knowledge there were no near-death experiences from my childhood, or teens, that would have pushed me, as I was wading through my early 20s, to feel as viscerally afraid of my own mortality as I found myself becoming. 

And it wasn’t even a fear of growing old, per se, and reaching “the end.” It was, specifically, a fear of dying in my sleep.

To be even more precise, it was the fear of dying in my sleep—and this was the nine months that I found myself living alone in a basement apartment in a building that should have been condemned—and nobody finding me for, like, a number of days.

The fear of going to bed, not waking up, and leaving so many things undone—bills unpaid, food in the refrigerator eventually spoiling. 

Work unfinished. Goodbyes never said.

All of my personal effects left for someone to sift through.

This all seems unnecessarily dramatic now, since so much time has elapsed, and at this point in my life, just two years away from 40, I no longer am afraid of dying in my sleep. It’s not something I think about at all, really, and I stop short of saying that I am no longer “afraid” of death as an abstract concept, but now, there are times when I am genuinely surprised that I have made it as far as I have, and I am, as much as anyone is possibly able to be, “okay” with, or at least, I am more accepting of, the notion that everything eventually ends.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have “refused” to die, but maybe, in thinking about it, the act of getting out of bed, going to work, and just pushing yourself through, even when it seems impossible—especially within the last year—is a small act of refusal against just simply giving up.


The first word that came to mind as the opening guitar chords from “I Refused to Die,” the first track from the debut full-length from Sydney Sprague, was audacious.

At 10 songs, and less than a half hour in length, Maybe I Will See You at The End of The World wastes no time—because Sprague has no time to waste. It’s an urgent, immediate, absolutely blistering record—a labor of love written over a two year span, and recorded at the very beginning of 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. And even though it is a “pre-rona” album, Sprague’s preoccupation with an apocalypse and her overall palpable anxiety make it a record that is both timeless, in a sense, because when will some of us not be crippled by anxiety or worried about “end times,” but based on what the last year has put us through, it creates an eerie reflection that extraordinarily relevant.

It is an audacious record though, from start to finish—from those first chords with Sprague’s voice coming in on “I Refuse to Die”’s razor sharp, evocative opening lines: “All I want is a cold black coffee—you’re crying hard in the middle of the backseat. I could have gone home three hours ago; but I refuse to die”—all the way to the haunting, gauzy shimmering titular track that she closes the album with, it is a startling debut album that is bold, beautiful, and fearless—ironic, however, because a bulk of these songs were written from a fearful place. 

Combining a love of late 90s and early 2000s bubble gum pop, hints of an edgy twang, and a lifelong dedication to the power pop/emo movement from the first part of the 2000s, Sprague, right from the start, shows a preternatural knack for songwriting, and a meticulous ear for just how big she wanted this record to sound.

I say this more often you think I would, which leads me to think that maybe referring to an album as “fun” it isn’t as rare of an occurrence as I once believed it to be, but even with its macabre sense of humor and nervy, anxious tension, Maybe I Will See You at The End of The World is an incredibly fun, bombastic record. No record, however far into an artist’s career, should be this good and this utterly flawless. And for it to happen on Sprague’s debut?

It is audacious.


Maybe I Will See You is so good that it is almost unfair—and Sprague is the kind of intelligent songwriter that doesn’t let the thoughtfulness of the record weigh it down or condescend the listener. It is subtly found in within the lyrics, and the more time you spend unraveling the album, the more you take away from it with each listen. But the clearest example of this record’s sharp intellect is the way it is structured.

With five songs on each side, Sprague almost builds the first half of the record up until it is too much, with the explosive anthemic “Steve,” complete with a shout-a-long refrain—and from there, she dials it back inward at just the right moment with the final two songs on the first half—“You Have to Stop” and “Quitter,” both of which tap into the slightest of twangs.

I hesitate to say that, as the album begins, Sprague has written “I Refuse to Die” from a place or desperation, but there is so much tension waiting to burst throughout the song’s short length, it comes from a place of extreme momentousness, especially as the rest of the instrumentation kicks in, and Sprague allows the song to become unrelenting, breathless declaration.

If anything, based on the song’s third and fourth verses, “I Refuse to Die” serves as the conceit or mission statement for the record, or at least the feelings Sprague had poured into these songs over the two year process of writing them. “All I need is a little bit of pressure to keep me moving left of center,” she sings. “I could do that thing I said I’d never—I think it’s time try.”

Later, after the song has descended towards resolve, “I’ve come to far to just get stuck—so I refuse to die.”

Prior to the descent into the introspective, somber tunes as the first half of the record closes, and as Sprague continues to propel things forward, she becomes wistful—lyrically, at least, while blending a dreamy, shimmer guitar tone and a sharp percussive pattern to keep things going with an enormous, pop-oriented hook on “Object Permanence,” and heads into full-on power pop on the aforementioned, “Steve,” which is arguably the album’s most gigantic, most exciting song. 

And even when Sprague turns inward, she never forsakes the accessible, memorable songwriting. “You Have to Stop,” the slightly less twangy of the pair that concludes the end of the first side, shuffles along with brushed percussion and an acoustic guitar, with moody atmospherics underscoring all of it, creating a swirling, dizzying effect that runs concurrently alongside Sprague turning the phrase “You know you do this every time,” into a mantra.

Continuing with the the moody atmospherics, creating an undercurrent that the rest of the song floats gently above, “Quitter” isn’t a fully fledged country and western song, but it turns up the twang and the heartbreak enough to pay homage to similar, slow burning songs that have come before it. 

With the strummed acoustic guitar, Sprague’s earnest delivery of the lyrics, and a damn near infectious melody, it’s also “Quitter”’s production and pacing that make it the kind of song it is; like a bulk of the songs on Maybe I Will See You, there is an effect placed over Sprague’s vocal track, giving it a slight coating of reverb, while the instrumentation behind her unfolds deliberately and gently, calling to mind a dark, crowded bar, full of lonely people desperate to make a connection, swaying in time to the music, illuminated only by a neon glow coming from beer signs from around the room.

I hesitate to say that Maybe I Will See You is front loaded with the most energetic material, but Sprague, as the album continues, more or less maintains that inward, pensive feeling—musically speaking, with the charmingly titled “Wrongo” being the album’s most delicate, and “What U Want” perhaps being its most moody, or downcast. And even when it a song’s arranging becomes slightly more spirited, like on “Time is Gone,” it is nowhere near as ramshackle or expansive as the three song run she opens things up with. 

And even as Sprague has turned things inward, and they become more hushed and introspective, as a whole, the album’s arranging and instrumentation is nowhere near as melancholic as it is in the final moments on “End of The World,” beginning with a simply strummed guitar and an atmospheric sound rhythmically oscillating underneath, when the rest of the instruments come tumbling in, the music swoons, creating a temporary, woozy, terribly somber environment that is very fitting for this song, bringing the listener down gently as things fade out into the ether. 


Like the best kind of songwriters, Sprague, across the entirety of the album, finds the balance between accessibility and honesty, which can’t be an uncomplicated task to do, but she makes it appear effortless. It is almost too easy to get caught up in just how infectiously structured some of these songs are in their arranging, and not so much be ignorant to Sprague’s lyrics, but her dark sense of humor takes a little while to reveal itself—creating a minor sense of discomfort once you erroneously thought you had become comfortable within the environment she’s created.

There is a poetic, albeit often heartbroken, nature to some of her lyrics on Maybe I’ll See You, like the opening lines to “Steve,” where with a deadpan, she sings, “You had my heart—you ate it like a peach in the summer. You spit it out and said I’m not as sweet as the others.” Or on “Quitter,” when she works in very evocative images in both the song’s haunting, desperate refrain—“Did I pass you by somewhere on Greenway last night? Did you see me screaming out the window—‘bout to lose my mind?…Would you put your finger on the dial and press rewind?

Or in the bridge, which lyrically, finds Sprague leaning in hard to the song’s country and western feeling with a line like, “If I loved you again, could you love me better? Wrap me up like your favorite sweater—one more time,” which in the hands of a less capable or intelligent songwriter, might come off as insincere, but even as dramatic, or possibly cliche as it is to use the concept of a ‘favorite sweater’ in a song, Sprague pulls it off with an earnest grace and makes it work.

There is a place where the sense of humor, infectious song structure converge, and production values to the album all converge, which I guess you could call the halfway point—“Staircase Failure,” which smartly kicks off the album’s second side. Musically, it’s fascinating in how restrained and mechanical it is, with Sprague playing an electric guitar over the top of a thick, rumbling bass line, and a mechanized beat keeping steady time underneath. And when it reaches the song’s refrain—one phrase, asked as a question—it’s impressive how close Sprague brings the song to nearly soaring, but never allows it to get away from her.

What’s the worst that could happen?,” she asks on “Staircase Failure,” which, given how much anxiety has been woven in and out of Maybe I’ll See You, serves as an additional mission statement to the record, or at least a slight inverse to the exuberance the album opens with. Lyrically, “Staircase Failure,” comes from not the bleakest place, but it is knowingly dark— bit of a wink to the listener. “I’m descending into hell—it’s the way you fuck my head up,” she sneers in the song’s surprising opening line. Then, shortly thereafter, “I could be your wife estranged, when you’re off in Massachusetts getting drunk as fuck all day while I’m cutting off my loose ends,” she says breathlessly.

That dark tone continues in the song’s second verse—“I just focus on my friends, it’s the way they walk in circles. They’re a 7 out of 10 on a scale of being difficult,” adding, self-effacingly, before the refrain builds things back up: “When I show up at your door, just pretend that you are not home.” 


What I have found, the longer I have sat with Maybe I’ll See You at The End of The World, is that yes, the exuberant opening tracks are a lot of fun to listen to, but surprisingly, the finest, most impactful moment of the record is the gauzy, sorrowful, and breathtaking titular track that closes things out.

I’ve written about this a lot in the past, especially over the last two years, when these reviews have become longer and more complicated, and I have focused, at times, on how emotionally effecting a specific song or album is for me—but I have written a lot about the idea of feeling “seen,” and additionally, feeling “attacked” by a song when I see an unflattering or difficult reflection of myself in it.

So the personal irony, in the line Sprague delivers almost as a deprecated throwaway, “You don’t know how to talk to me—maybe that’s alright ‘cause I don’t need to be seen,” did not go unnoticed. 

The uncertainty and anxiety that runs throughout the record culminates in “End of The World,” blending seamlessly with a sadness that Sprague has only hinted at elsewhere. Writing in stark, gorgeous fragments, there is a shadowy, dejected vagueness within the song’s lyrics making it partially difficult, at first, to understand what she is writing about or where she is writing from; however, that also means this song could be about anything, making it accessible and very personal to anyone. 

Can you die from over empathy?,” she asks, unflinchingly at the beginning of the song. “I don’t know what’s going on with me lately. I just think the worst—and my body’s breaking down. I can’t breathe a word; am I getting older now?

And the thing about “End of The World” is that even as the rest of the instrumentation comes in swirling behind her at the song’s halfway mark, it only magnifies the uncertainty and the sorrow that the first verse conveyed. “You breathe air but not like you’re supposed to. Shallow draws are never quite enough to fill you,” she sings, and then continues, “You just think the worst—think about it all the time. Replies are all rehearsed now.

When I say that I’m doing just fine,” she concedes as the rest of the song’s instrumentation has ceased and we are just left with Sprague’s electric guitar strums, the same way we began the album—albeit a drastically different tone. “Finding different ways to pass the time. And maybe I’ll see you at the end of the world.”

There is a fragility we don’t talk about enough—maybe because they are conversations that are too difficult, or too heavy to have regularly, but are conversations that should be had regardless. The fragility in the human condition—to our fraying connections with each other and with ourselves. 

I just think the worst,” Sprague says, the eternal pessimist, and it’s so easy to do that, isn’t it? To think the worst, all of the time, about yourself, about others, and about whatever situation you find yourself in. But there is more than just end times anxiety going on here, and when she tosses away the lyric, “I don’t need to be seen,” it’s bleakly funny for those of us who do require that at the very least, there is one person who is able to see us for who we are, but it’s part of the larger, depressive truth to “End of The World.” 

The truth, or at least the disarmingly accurate depiction, found in wondering if you can die from too much empathy and taking shallow breaths because they are supposed to help you calm down but never do.

The depressive truth in rehearsed responses when people ask how you are doing.

The honesty when all you can muster is that you are uncertain what is going on within you. 

Whether intentionally or not, Sprague has opted to conclude her record with a devastatingly honest piece that, lingers like a specter long after the music has stopped—it’s a song that for some (like myself, for example), might cast an unflattering, difficult reflection, but even in that place of unease, there is a small amount of comfort in knowing somebody else understands that there is a terribly fine line between feeling nothing at all and feeling everything entirely way too much, and that it is so very draining to walk that line every day.


Initially, when I started writing this, I had uncertainty about where Sydney Sprague as a singer and songwriter “came from.” I know she is from the small scene growing in Phoenix, Arizona—often collaborating as she is able with fellow singer and songwriter Danielle Durack, but Maybe I’ll See You at The End of The World, touted as Sprague’s debut full-length, makes it appear like she came literally out of nowhere as a fully developed performer, with no other releases readily attached to her name.

More or less scrubbed from corners of the internet like YouTube, Soundcloud, and Spotify, prior to this release, Sprague has three EPs in her back catalog—Dark Clouds, The Valley, and Bad Patchwork, all of which have been tucked away in the “VIP” section of her Bandcamp site, available to those who are interested in sponsoring her for a surprisingly affordable $20 or more a year—yes, once a year; it’s not a monthly investment like an Only Fans, or something. 

In an interview with Nevermind magazine, Sprague describes the record as the opportunity to finally make the music she wanted to—and in a conversation with Hanif Aburraqib1 on his Object of Sound podcast, she discusses the specificity with which she made Maybe I’ll See You, right down to the producer and the studio the album was made in.

Making her old material less accessible isn’t a way to re-write her own history or try and erase songs that she has attempted to partially distance herself from as an artist (or maybe it is) but it is an opportunity to reintroduce herself as an artist, and as implied, with the music that she wants to make right now. Growing a small, regional audience through endless nights playing mostly cover songs, Sprague is way more than just a young woman with an acoustic guitar, and from the few songs I have listened to from her back catalog, there has been a tremendous amount of growth, maturation, and focus from these three EPs to where she she is now. 

On the same episode of Object of Sound, Sprague and Aburraqib discuss one of Sprague’s tweets from around the time of the record’s release (at the end of February)—“So for the last two years I was pretty sure I was going to die before the record came out and I didn’t so…what do I do now??? Make another one?

It is kind of hilarious and sad to think about just how afraid of death—specifically dying in my sleep—I was at one time in my life, and how unnecessarily dramatic that seems now, since so much time has elapsed. Like Sprague, to an extent, I am genuinely surprised that I have made it this far, and now, as much as anyone possibly can be, I am “okay with, or at least, more accepting of the very notion that everything eventually ends. 

In her conversation with Aburraqib, Sprague seems thoroughly shocked by how much he likes the record, how much it has resonated with him, and how far out of Phoenix, Arizona it has already taken her. But the success of Maybe I’ll See You at The End of The World speaks to Sprague’s refusal to die—the unhappiness she found herself in after playing hours of acoustic covers nearly every night of the week for nearly a decade, and the realization that something needed to change. 

Have I “refused” to die? 

Have you? 

I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that I have “refused,” but within the daily routine of pulling myself out of bed, going to work, and pushing myself through the day even when, within the last year, it seems so fucking impossible sometimes—then coming home, sitting down, overanalyzing a record, and then placing my fingers on the keyboard and a few thousand words later hoping that somebody out in the world is going to give half as much of a shit as I do.

Maybe that is my refusal. The small act that I haven’t given up. Not yet. 

Maybe I’ll See You at The End of The World is a beautiful, raucous artistic statement—defiant and monumental, whether it is a reintroduction to Sydney Sprague, or your actual introduction. Across the album’s 10 tracks, it runs the gamut in emotion, beginning with material that will put a smile on your face and a thrill in your soul, while ending in a moment that is simply devastating. 

There have been times within the last year when I have not known whether to laugh, cry, or scream and sometimes it seems like you want to do all three at once. And in the face of the abyss, when it feels like everything is crumbling around you, and you want to laugh, cry, and scream out into the bleak nothingness in front of you, there is a sliver of comfort here, knowing that you are not alone, and knowing that there is a record like this, and that Sydney Sprague, in wisdom beyond her years, has managed to cram all of those terrible feelings, and more, into a record that is ferocious, beautiful, poignant, and is so good, and so perfect, it’s unfair—the kind of album that could be double the length, and still not be long enough; the kind of album that, the moment it ends, after you compose yourself, you hit play again, letting those first guitar chords surge through you once more. 

1- It’s actually thanks to Hanif Aburraqib that I had even heard of this record; he repped it in on of his Instagram stories the weekend it was released. I truthfully am uncertain where I’d be without him—both as a writer who aspires to his level of thoughtfulness, but also as just a person who loves music. 

Maybe I Will See You at The End of The World is out now via Rude Records.