Roman à Clef sound like the second coming of Prefab Sprout. The angelic female backing vocals, crisp new-wave guitars, and fluttering of airy synths help construct a sound that reminds of the great Paddy McAloon’s songwriting. Based in Brooklyn, Roman à Clef was formed by Ryan Newmyer of dream-pop favorites A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who also brought along vocalist Jen Goma and had Kurt Feldman (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Ice Choir) produce. It’s an exciting project with several members quite experienced in smart pop songwriting and constructing mesmerizing atmosphere.
I struggled choosing between the two Roman à Clef’s tracks to feature first, as they’re equally strong. “Lucky Toasts” touts a suave jangle-pop feel, propelled by a swift chorus that features guitar bursts and dripping synth arpeggios. Goma’s vocals gradually reflect Newmyer’s deeply restrained vocals, providing a high-pitched and floating accompaniment to his more grounded delivery. The conclusion features a wonderfully nostalgia clashing of jangly guitars and synths; Thomas Dolby would salivate over it. Feldman’s wonderful production likely took some cues from there. Then there’s the charming “PSBTV”, a more diverse track that shifts between guitar-powered anthems and romantically wispy synth interludes. The latter is showcased by a heavily rumbling bass, a trademark of certain Paddy tracks like “I Love Music”. Goma’s vocals are allowed more freedom here, as she and Newmyer cohesively cross paths in their vocal sections. Add the wonderfully twinkling accompaniment, and it’s apparent these two tracks show Roman à Clef with genius potential.