May 22, 2023

Velveteen PONY Not Rabbit


PONY is one of those bands that seem unappreciated. They are not the indie darlings that Japanese Breakfast or Phoebe Bridgers are. PONY doesn’t often show up in Indie Essentials type playlists on Spotify. I suspect that is because they are just so damn easy to listen to. It’s hard for indie hipsters to get into a band that isn’t obtuse, angsty, exclusive, or “deep” (those should really be air quotes). If an artist makes music that people will actually sing along to, music that people actually like, then how can one be snooty about it. Such is the indie scene.

PONY, instead, makes wonderfully retro alt-pop and that shows on their latest album, Velveteen. Listening to Velveteen it is obvious that calling them indie is neither fair nor descriptive. This album plays like an updated homage to late-80s/early-90s alt-pop bands such as Blake Babies/Juliana Hatfield, Belly/Tanya Donelly, and even an occasional touch of Donelly’s earlier (and better) band Throwing Muses. Velveteen is pure well-crafted pop with droning alternative guitar overlays. It’s sweet but not twee.

There are some deviations from the PONY alt-pop formula sprinkled throughout Veleveteen. “Who’s Calling” is more bubbly than most PONY songs, with gently strumming and plinking guitars instead of that classic alt-pop sound. It’s almost bubblegum pop in it’s infectiousness. “French Class” gets closer to modern indie pop than most PONY songs but, thankfully, eschews the baby talk vocals that are all too prevalent today.

Rather than being a throwback to an earlier time, PONY’s Velveteen takes that 80s/90s alt-pop sound and updates it for modern audiences. This makes Velveteen accessible (there’s that word again) to both older and younger audiences. The ability to be relevant and, more importantly, enjoyable, to a broader group of people is the mark of a great band but also the antithesis of indie.

So, if you are still wed to your big beard and flannel shirts, or light blue bob and flowing dress, then maybe you should listen to Soccer Mommy or something. For everyone else, PONY is the better choice.