Coming off the heels of his 2017 album “Apricot Princess” and scattered singles throughout 2018, indie-pop artist Rex Orange County returned with his third studio album “Pony” in late October. Taking a much more upbeat and pop-influenced approach than usual, “Pony” marks an interesting new shift for the U.K. singer as he continues to experiment with his sound. While “Pony” occasionally struggles to balance these new sounds in effective ways, the undeniably catchy record is a welcome addition to the artist’s discography.
Even before the release of his third record, the 21 year old singer and songwriter has maintained an impressive and respectable reputation. Alexander O’Connor (with Rex Orange County later becoming his more commonly known stage name) released his first album “Bcos U Will Never B Free” on Soundcloud in late 2016 at the age of 17. Followed by a slew of singles and his second album “Apricot Princess” in 2017, the artist began to amass a large fan base after appearing on the tracks “Foreword” and “Boredom” on rapper Tyler, the Creator’s influential fourth studio album “Flower Boy” the same year.
Tackling themes like mental health and heartbreak on his earlier projects, Rex Orange County’s vulnerability and stylistic charm connected him with many audiences across the world. After finding his footing over the past few years, the artist confessed his long-awaited third album “Pony” was released at a time where he finally feels more content and comfortable with himself.
“Thank you for making me feel so loved in a time where I have really struggled to enjoy life,” the artist posted on Instagram the day the album released. “I’m in a good place now but the last couple years were really hard. That’s why I’m crying. Beyond happy to be out of that period of time but equally sad looking back at it.”
“Pony” kicks off with the previously released single “10/10” before moving into even more energetic and eccentric songs. Highlighting his personal struggles in the past and how they have led him to where he is today, the ten-track album often presents these intense themes and subject matters in interesting ways. The mix of heavenly-sounding production and vocals on the track “Pluto Projector” for instance showcases the range of the artist’s nasally tone in an extremely satisfying way. Other notable and catchy tracks from the record that take a similar approach include “Face to Face,” “Every Way” and “It’s Not the Same Anymore.”
Unfortunately, the more pop-like tracks on “Pony” often find themselves running into trouble as they feel more uninspired and forgettable than others. Tracks like “10/10” and “It Gets Better” suffer from offputting autotune that makes the singer’s vocals feel more child-like and artificial. Similarly other tracks like “Laser Lights,” in an attempt to be more experimental and play around with different sounds, end up being more aggravating than appealing.
Although “Pony” may not be a “10/10” as its first track implies, Rex Orange County’s new album delivers with a handful of replayable and uniquely memorable songs. Differing substantially from its predecessors, the more optimistic and pop-heavy album is a satisfying entry from the artist but most likely won’t do much into converting non-listeners of Rex Orange County into avid fans. Regardless of this, “Pony” is a worthy new step forward for the artist and stands out among other albums this year.