BIRN Album Review: Pony by Rex Orange County

After releasing albums Bcos U Will Never B Free (2015) and Apricot Princess (2017), singer-songwriter Alex O’Connor most commonly known as Rex Orange County, has returned with the release of his third full-length album Pony. Writing and recording the entirety of the album with help from producer Ben Baptie, the 21-year-old has outdone himself with an engaging soundscape of bedroom soul that illustrates his feelings from a more juvenile perspective.

Listening to the music of Rex Orange County persuades listeners into believing that they truly know him. As someone who maintains an uncommon sense of creative individuality while also possessing the familiarity to attract listeners, Rex Orange County cannot be held by the confines of genre. His musical personality is precisely described as, “the amalgamation of bedroom pop cosplayers, Odd Future apologists, and old souls.”

From the beginning to the end of Pony, Rex Orange County is transparent with his emotions, utilizing lyrics that make you feel like you’re eavesdropping on his thoughts. In the opening track “10/10,” he candidly admits to having a difficult year and feeling down. Then, with an undertone of hope, he acknowledges how a change of attitude could change his mindset, singing, “I feel like a five, I can’t pretend / but if I get my shit together this year maybe I’ll be a ten.” He continues to acknowledge his journey to a place of stability in the song “Always,” while harnessing a boyish mindset that craves dependency, singing, “But until somebody sits me down / And tells me that I’m different now / I’ll always be the way I always am.” Rex Orange County shamelessly revisits this adolescent outlook throughout the album to communicate the way most 21-year olds feel at this time in their lives.

His focus starts to shift on songs like “Face to Face” and “Stressed Out.” Both songs talk about trust issues but are illustrated in different ways. “Face to Face” uses the theme of a long distance relationship to describe being in a place outside of his comfort zone and not knowing who to trust, longing to be back with her. “Stressed Out” is an extension of this feeling. “They wanna take what’s yours / They wanna go to dinner on your name / I let them take control and take me for a fool / It’s such a shame,” describes the way he lets people use him even though he can’t trust them. Rex Orange County approaches the close of the album with an uplifting tone that exudes positivity. With strong rhythmic drive and layered vocals that soar through orchestral strings, “It Gets Better” is one of the album’s best and most honest love songs about his long-term girlfriend Thea. The final song on the album, “It’s Not The Same Anymore,” revisits the overall theme of Pony but is observed through a different lens. “I’ll keep the pictures saved in a safe place / Wow, I look so weird here / My face has changed now,” acknowledges the reality that he has grown up and his life will never be as simple as it once was. This song is meant to conclude the “boy inside my thoughts” perspective Rex Orange County has maintained throughout the album, closing one chapter and opening a new one.