Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual (We Are Free)

Welcome our newest contributor, Alexa Williams. She cuts her teeth for us with a review of Baltimore staple Ponytail’s newest LP Ice Cream Spiritual, a definite contender for highlight of 2008. Have at it!

And stay tuned tomorrow, as our Whartscape mini-terviews continue with Dustin from Ponytail in the spotlight!

Take everything- alternative, independent, scream-o, metal, electronic, and mash it into one nasty Science Project of chaotic, yet completely accepted sound. Some may call it “new-wave”, some “post-punk, experimental, underground math-rock”, but whatever the label, unclassifiable sounds are overflowing the headphones of today’s listeners.

Measured against big names Animal Collective and Deerhoof, Baltimore’s own Ponytail emerges from the smoke after three years with the eight-track long Ice Cream Spiritual. Kamehameha, their first album released in 2005, never got weird enough for me. Its sound was too safe, too easy to handle.

Using the familiar mixture of chaotic Orangutan wails and electric riffs, Ponytail’s new album takes their sound to a riskier level, collaborating more instruments and making the music more than just a background beat. It’s a schizophrenic Karen O singing lead vocals for Lightning Bolt, then coming back down to a grungy garage Mudhoney punk, progressing in a way that made all this nonsense tolerable.

The roaring gibberish belongs to vocalist Molly Siegel, accompanied by Dustin Wong, Jeremy Hyman and Ken Seeno (all MICA graduates). Although Siegel’s screams can not literally be translated, her verses have their own way of communicating. Lack of any “real” words leaves more room for interpretation. The voice is given a new purpose, where speech has no boundaries or language but is used, instead, as an instrument. It’s like recalling a dream the morning after, nonsense sounds impossible to decipher, yet the point comes across just fine.

With that said, the nonexistence of meter and lyrics put that much more emphasis on the sound itself, an issue noticeable in their first album and still present in this one. Some tracks remain unmoving, not making the turn as an effective, mood-altering song. Tracks such as “Die Allman Bruder” become a little too repetitive. All of a sudden the chaos is overbearing…in an irritating way. Compared to cuts like “Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came From an Angel)” that give you the screeching of Siegel until you want out, sending her calls in waves, then cutting them with tranquil instrumental indie-rock to give you a break. The poetry of tracks like these never became too much to identify.

What Ponytail attempts to convey (if we can even tack down what it is they are trying to convey) is not only effective and original, but completely appropriate and fitting for this unclassifiable “mash-up” of sounds all at once. What these artists come up with from album to album is born unexpected and genius every time; a cell that breaks off and morphs into something totally new. The sound is more developed and mature. As so many attempt to master it, a crazy singer with a back-up band is anything but impressive. It takes movement and emotion; something the listener can grab onto. Ponytail has found their sound on Ice Cream Spiritual.

I look forward to hearing what Ponytail brews up next.

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3 Responses to “Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual (We Are Free)”

  1. Joyce Major says:

    I volunteer with the Sumatran orangutan Society in Indonesai. Sinc eyou use orangutan wails in your music, would you like to help us with fundraising efforts to save the critically endangered orangutans? SEems like a brilliant idea to me. What do you think?

  2. BPO says:

    Hands down my favorite album of the year! Looking forward to seeing them at Whartscape this weekend. Nice review!

  3. its soooo big! says:

    I agree, easily my favorite album of the year so far. Jay Robbins does it yet again….oh yeah and the band is pretty good too. Ive been anticipating them at Whartscape since I found out they were playing.

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