William Thornton reviews Rex Orange County’s latest album
UK indie musician Rex Orange County is back with his third studio album, Pony: his first release since his breakthrough album Apricot Princess and his own rise to fame after working alongside Tyler the Creator – and even being proclaimed one of the UK’s top artists in 2018 by the BBC. The twenty-one-year-old artist has achieved such a sudden breakthrough in the music industry that it’s no surprise his latest album has had a huge amount of hype behind its late November release. With a plethora of singles being released preceding the new record and a huge marketing campaign as well, it shows just how much of a household name Rex has become in the past few years.
It seems, however, that Rex has moved away from the upbeat and energetic sound he developed for himself with Apricot Princess and his more popular singles released after that (‘Loving is Easy’, ‘New House’), and has, instead, opted for a more dreamy and thoughtful sound. This should be nothing new to long-term Rex fans; after all, his first ever release, ‘Uno’, is a hugely melancholic song with tragic lyrics that centre around the singer’s own self-loathing and anxiety. Since then, however, Rex has moved towards more upbeat and energetic melodies, which makes me wonder if this album will come as a bit of a shock to newer listeners who may have been expecting a much different record.
‘Face To Face’, a bare-boned song that is simply beautiful, perfectly captures the overall tone
Pony starts off with the song ‘10/10’ which was previously released as this first single of the album, and it’s no wonder why: the song will sound much more familiar to most Rex fans, as it has a melody and lyrics that could have come straight off Apricot Princess, and would very well fit with the rest of that album. This is by no means a bad thing, as the song is a great opener to Pony: it sets the tone well and also offers a nice contrast to the rest of the album as the songs gradually become more pensive and dreamy throughout the short-but-sweet thirty-minute runtime. Another stand-out track is the fourth song on the album, ‘Face To Face’, a bare-boned song that is simply beautiful, and in my opinion perfectly captures the overall tone of Pony; the opening harmonies of the song are warm and pleasant to the ear, and the way the song gradually build up its instrumentation alongside the hard-hitting lyrics is incredible – I’d even go so far as to say this is my favourite track off Pony. Other stand-out songs for me are ‘Pluto Projector’, one of the previously-released singles for the album, and the closing track ‘It’s Not The Same Anymore’, both of which are extremely dreamlike and contemplative, acting as a great climax to the album, seeing as how reflective they are of this new, more sombre sound Rex has developed.
Despite this, however, there’s not much else to say about Pony. Apart from these few stand-out tracks I can’t help but feel that the rest of the album blends together somewhat, with a lot of the in-between tracks sounding a tad more generic and unremarkable. That isn’t to say they’re bad, in fact in my opinion this album is very solid all the way through, and even the less-memorable songs are pleasant to listen to and generally fit well with the album as a whole. It’s just a shame that Rex couldn’t keep up the pace and quality of the first few songs on the album throughout.
All in all, I’m very pleased with Pony; it’s an extremely solid and listenable album, with a handful of songs that I’d go so far as to say are some of the artist’s best, despite the fact that it has a slight drop in quality in the middle of the album. Whilst it may not be as good as his preceding record, I feel that Pony is a great addition to Rex Orange County’s discography, and I am hugely invested to see where he goes next.