Today I listened to Pony, the debut album by outlaw country poet Orville Peck, and recent signee to Sub Pop records. I saw an album review in my Instagram feed for Pony, my inspiration for my immediate fascination. I didn’t read the review. Instead I went to Spotify and listened. No review was going to sell this album to me as much as the album art did. I knew nothing of Peck. I went off face value, off first impressions. I saw the red draped background, complementing Peck’s red cowboy head, contrasted beautifully by his black leather gimp mask with shoe-string tassels. The album art is both confronting and alluring, mysterious and dangerous. Peck’s eyes telling me what no review could.
Peck’s sound compliments his hyper-stylised album cover. Or vice versa. His strong country roots are the grounding for majority of the album. Country rock chords transition from song to song, a classic country twang lasting long after the strum has finished. Peck’s vocals are exaggerated and oddly cinematic, almost like that of Kirin J Callinan or Alex Cameron, but for the country genre. Peck litters elements of other genres in his melting pot album, like the indie-rock guitar solo on Turn to Hate, or the 80s post punk ambiance on Queen of the Rodeo. A dark moodiness lingers in Peck’s music, as he revisits musical ideas not seen since 50s rock and roll ballads. Like on track Kansas (Remembers Me Now), I feel as if I’m sitting in a 1950s diner, ordering a late-night burger and shake. Hell, some of these tracks would even fit in perfectly in the latest Twin Peaks series, as if I’m at the Roadhouse Bar watching a sinister cowboy perform on stage.
Pony is a mysterious album, heartbreaking one minute and shoe-tappin’ catchy the next. I didn’t know what the fuck to think when I clicked on an album with a gimp looking cowboy. But I’m glad I stuck around for it. Pony is a solid album, and I’ll continue to uncover its mysteries throughout 2019.