UK singer, songwriter Alex O’Connor, more commonly known as Rex Orange County, has burst out from the wood work with his newest full length album Pony on Oct. 25.
In his early days, Rex Orange County was quietly popular among the UK indie and bedroom music scene, until he broke into the spotlight with multiple features on Tyler The Creator’s dynamic 2017 album Flower Boy. This connection was a monumental shift in the career of Rex Orange County, crashing him into a deal with Sony Records.
2017’s Apricot Princess was the last full length project from Rex Orange County. The album skillfully incorporated elements of high quality production, interesting and deeply personal lyrical play and the incorporation of various instruments, such as guitar, bass, violin and electronic synths. Apricot Princess was a glimpse of immature greatness; the kind of coming-of-age story that is pleasant to the ear and easy to relate to. After hearing this album, I was impatient to see what he would create next in his discography.
Pony is regrettably a dull development. I wanted so badly to love this album, and upon first listen, I did. I thought it a playful yet simply poetic piece of music that is not exactly genre-specific. The 10 tracks touch on the various dimensions of mental health issues and Rex’s relationship with long-term girlfriend, Thea. It felt like another sincere output from Rex, really expressing where he is in the now.
But the more I listen, the more I notice the repetitiveness of subject, and the lack of diversity in the instrumentation. In a way, the immaturity in the sound is endearing, but as Rex’s sound should be growing more advanced in quality, this album sounds like a step back in production. Pony edged off of quirky songwriting and threaded onto being messy at times, like an unfiltered diary entry you sculpt into an album.
But then again, that is appealing in a way. I am immensely found of parts of this album, such as the song “Pluto Projector” built up by violins and guitars and ghostly layered deep vocals with brutally honest lyrics of true love and personal doubt. All together it created a song that genuinely made me cry when I first heard it. That’s really what is lovable about this album, It is relatable and painstakingly intimate, at least it was for me.
Aside from the relatability, looking at it as a whole piece of music, I see too many plot holes in the album to overlook. It seems as though every song in this 33 minute album is somewhat of a romantic attribution, and while I’m a sucker for a love song, in 33 minutes I would like to hear more from Rex. What else is in that relatable diary that fans go crazy for?
The instrumentals on this album are another grey area for me, while elegant and fun in some places, they remain overly toned down in others, like on the track “Never Had The Balls”, with the instrumental sounding like a Rex Orange County “type beat” rather than a further evolution in the caliber of his sound.
But then listeners are reminded of the power of a simple piano ballad on the track “Every Way” and suddenly they are taken to a blissful place with lyrics that lift, which is what music is really supposed to do.
This album is a double sided coin. As a person who takes music education very seriously, I find “Pony” to feel incomplete and an almost stagnant project in Rex’s repertoire. But, as a hopeless romantic, and someone who admires a story that ends in victory, I connected to the sweet spots and related to this album quite a bit, though skippable in parts, I am happy to have it in my life to listen to.