Cola Boyy, aka Oxnard, California, resident and “disabled disco innovator” Matthew Urango, is sexy. He is sexy because he has chosen to be sexy, and because throughout the 10 tracks that make up his debut album Prosthetic Boombox, there is an irrefutably gorgeous spark of personality that often heightens to a flame at certain points. Growing up disabled (spina bifida and scoliosis) from a multi-ethnic background in a community drastically impacted by the effects of late-stage capitalism, Cola Boyy draws on these experiences to craft an electrifying, catchy and colorful debut. Previous singles like “All Power To The People” prove that this belief in the necessity of community isn’t new territory, but the result of a lifelong commitment to these ideals. Much of the album’s personality is framed through the radical light of disco, a genre founded on the principles of liberation through dance and free expression. With his background in community organization, his effortless control of rhythm, funk and melody, and his vibrant aesthetic sensibilities, Urango proves himself a worthy disco practitioner. In other words, sexy.
Album opener and lead single “Don’t Forget Your Neighborhood” marks the second collaboration between Cola Boyy and The Avalanches, a duo that sounds immediately like a match made in heaven. Few artists understand better what made the warmth of 1970s dance music such a magical sensation than The Avalanches, and it’s this shared understanding between the two that helps to usher the single to brilliant heights. When Urango sings “Will I make it if I walk there?” there’s a painful urgency that’s backlit by the saccharine instrumental. Paying homage to his hometown community, the song carries with it a powerful message about the powers that our roots possess and the virtual unstoppability of a motivated group.
The album is partly characterized by its vast array of high-profile collaborators. MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden appears on “Kid Born In Space,” a cosmic-sounding ode to the songwriter’s resilience amidst social confrontation, choosing personal joy as he sings “When I was a boy I was criticized / Now I flipped it and I’m happy inside.” Myd, the French house producer Urango previously worked with on 2018’s excellent single “Muchas,” arrives on the jovial and campy “Roses,” lending his dense but effective production prowess to Urango’s vocal melodies.
“Mailbox,” a dynamite funk track that features producer John Carroll Kirby and vocalist JGRREY, finds Cola Boyy lamenting having to focus on his daily responsibilities, instead pleading to “let [him] daydream.” When Prosthetic Boombox loses itself in moments of ecstatic fun, it can feel a bit like drifting off into another world. “Mink,” full of swirling synths, squelchy rhythms and gang vocals, is an exercise in that kind of world-building, building and cascading upon multiple sonic terrains. On the catchy “For The Last Time,” the immaculate-sounding production is particularly gripping, especially amidst the bright synths and stabbing piano chords.
At times, Prosthetic Boombox can admittedly sound a bit like cheesy commercial radio funk, but ultimately it adds to the overall charm of the album. For even the corniest electric piano solo or the occasionally overproduced funk instrumental break seems intentional and done through a campy lens. When it’s groovy, you have no choice but to dance. When it’s sexy, it’ll make you swoon, and when it chooses to be inspiring, the heart behind the album will force its way into your own.
Jason Friedman is a Paste editorial music intern located in Philadelphia and they’re a little afraid of ghosts.