It’s been nearly two years since I first picked up Pony Girl’s debut for a Grayowl review, and while my earlier exposure found plenty of DIY hard at work, follow-up Foreign Life finds itself channeling a more polished sound, likely thanks to So Sorry records.
But thankfully this isn’t one of those cases where something gets lost in transition. An impressive string of 14 tracks flow from one to the other, playing on tripping percussions, gloomy interludes and breathy, mellow vocals that loom omnipresent—living up to the whirling inner space that struggles as it “explores the tension between what we want and what we have.”
Bandmates Pascal Huot and Yolande Laroche prove to be the perfect counterbalance for each other. From the very first accents on opener “Foreign Life I,” Laroche’s whispy notes create the perfect echo for Huot’s distant intro—bringing back that old, crackling sound before striking a typical Pony Girl segue into an indie pop interlude that oscillates from joyous to bitter as it repeats “So you were loyal/forever grateful.”
As was the case with their 2013 release, nearly every song on Foreign Life feels like at least two melded together through the playful transitions the band has perfected. From Nintendo-like bouncing to the downright perky “Adultery,” Pony Girl knows how to play against type and expectation even as they deliver staple dreamy indie.
Still, it’s the smaller details—like the drum’s realization of the marching on of time on aforementioned “Adultery,” or the way “Dirty Pictures” seeks out its harsh, punctuating flat notes to emphasize a mechanical voyeurism—that take the soundscapes of Show Me Your Fears and turns them into living spaces. Each note is inhabited with meaning, chasing not just a sound, but also a reason for its particular existence.
In that sense, Foreign Life may live up to its title, capturing the essence of a place even if we can’t follow the words. But the two combined make for the most potent version of that experience, and Pony Girl offers up a world ripe for exploration as it pries into our deepest treacheries, our simplest, most cutting breaks and the clash between reality and expectation. And to some that may be familiar ground, but I’d hazard it’s never quite come to life with this sort of adventuring spirit before.
Top Tracks: “Adultery”; “Theo”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)