Album Review: Orange County – Pony

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‘Pony’ is chaotic, stressed and exactly as oddly charming as fans would expect from Rex Orange County’s third album. Dropping on the 25th of October, the album is intimate, reflective, and casual in the best way possible. The lyrics are simple, which highlights the focus on the album’s charming conversational tone. The songs aren’t afraid to laugh about sadness and rejection, and the musical backing is equally playful with upbeat synths and drum beats. The project is exciting and raw, and is a brilliant commendation for the upcoming Rex Orange County gig at the Barrowlands on the 24th November. 

The album opens with ‘10/10’, a previously released single. As an opener, ‘10/10’ is cheery and O’Connor’s tones are instantly recognisable. Despite the sombre lyrics, the song comes to an optimistic ending, reminding us that “I guess it all depends upon the people you choose and where you’re from”. The album’s upbeat energy is continued in ‘Laser lights’ which has an enchantingly surreal feel to it. The lyrics make a conversational stand against jazzy interludes before moving into ‘Face to Face’. The choral opening moves seamlessly into a more upbeat pop vibe, which is symbolic to the contrasts of the album, with the lyrics of the song centring around feelings of distrust and entrapment. This might be what creates the dialectic of joyful emotional turmoil and conflict that gives ‘Pony’ it’s charm. ‘Pony’ operates at a frantic pace and the album just feels stressed – epitomised best in the aptly titled ‘Stressed out’ where the lyrics lament how “they wanna see me stressed out every day I know it”.

‘Never Had the Balls’ is one of the stand out songs from this album, opening with an interlude of birds tweeting before moving into an upbeat bop backed up by thrumming electronic beats. “I’m your man if you’re looking for good times,” the song claims, and whilst this might not be true of the album as a whole, it certainly stands true for this tune. The move into slower ballads like ‘Pluto Projector’ and ‘Everyway’ is unexpectedly reflective given the frantic pace of earlier songs, but the album ironically reclaims its momentum through the wander back through O’Connor’s life in ‘It Gets Better’. The closing tune, ‘It’s Not the Same Anymore’ manages to tie the album together in an uplifting, albeit bittersweet, note.

Whilst the twists and turns of pace on the album makes for an intriguing experiment, nothing quite reaches the comforting, simplicity of Rex Orange County classics like ‘Loving is Easy”. Songs like ‘Face to Face’ and ‘Never Had the Balls’ stand out as more upbeat songs you could easily imagine dancing to at 2am, and the slower songs like ‘Everyway’ are beautiful in their own right. As an album though, the momentum and frenetic energy of the earlier songs is slowed by the later ballads and the album seems to reach its climax midway. The jump between emotions, from stressed to whimsical to optimistic verges perhaps too far on the side of chaotic, but maybe this is the intention. Life isn’t the carefree, simple journey it used to be and ‘Pony’ reminds us of this.

[Catherine Bouchard – she/her]

[Photo credit: Alexandra Waespi]

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