Rex Orange County
AWAL · October 25, 2019
Rex Orange County’s new album, Pony, arrives at the perfect time of year, adding an electronic, playful energy to the gray skies of fall. His record is a constant contradiction of melancholic reflection and whimsical video game-sounding songs, contrasting his previous album Apricot Princess. The result: surprisingly catchy and effective.
In Pony, Rex dials up his use of synth and electronic sounds, which at times lend the record a hypnotic feel. In “Pluto Projector,” the listener almost feels catapulted into space, bouncing back and forth between the cosmos as Rex croons, “And it’s sublime with you my friend.” The playfulness Rex delivers with new sounds, pings, and dings is accompanied by sincere lyricism. He plays up serious topics against an array of cloudy pastel colors, but keeps the tone light with poppy beats.
In “Always,” a blend of a soothing 2000’s R&B song with a strong jazz buildup, Rex sings, “It’s hard to make yourself believe / That it’ll get better when you feel defeated.” Even in the opening track, “10/10,” Rex explains, “I had a year that nearly sent me off the edge / I feel like a five, I can’t pretend.” Rex Orange County’s struggle is weaved in every song, expressing his reluctance to ask for help and even major roadblocks with fake friends.
The album feels conversational throughout, like Rex is constantly talking to one person– perhaps his long-time girlfriend, Thea, who always seems to keep him rooted in times when his head gets cluttered. “Every Way” is a sweet serenade to her, with an opening piano riff slightly reminiscent of Toy Story 2’s “When She Loved Me.” Rex sings, “I care about you, in every way I can.” He addresses time and time again his gratitude for someone sticking by his side for so long and has no shame in letting it be known. In “Pluto Projector,” he also sings, “This right here feels like the honeymoon / When you say my name.”
Once he released Pony, Rex posted a small thank-you note on Instagram to his fans and said, “Thank you for making me feel so loved in a time where I have really struggled to enjoy life. I’m in a good place now but the last couple years were really hard. Beyond happy to be out of that period of time but equally sad looking back at it.”
Pony captures these feelings perfectly in a blend of retrospective and forward focuses. The lyrics have grown up, but the sound has not. In this, Rex highlights his charm with the same revealing lyrics and genre experimentation that enticed listeners in his past projects. Although it is a different sound, Rex still shines through wholeheartedly.