Ponderosa: Pool Party

Bands like Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket are all vying to be crowned Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Reverb Rock. Pool Party often comes off as Ponderosa’s attempt to throw on the gloves and step into the ring for their chance at echo-laden glory.


Pool Party

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2012-07-31
UK Release Date: 2012-07-31

Go ahead and add Ponderosa to the list of post-2000 bands that sound like they might be recording their albums in echo chambers. I am not speaking metaphorically. Ponderosa’s Pool Party has the reverb cranked so heavily that it sounds like it was literally recorded in a cave. I don’t necessarily mean this statement as a dismissal of the Atlanta-based outfit’s sophomore LP. Bands like Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket are all vying to be crowned Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Reverb Rock. Pool Party often comes off as Ponderosa’s attempt to throw on the gloves and step into the ring for their chance at echo-laden glory.

If one were to situate Ponderosa’s latest effort next to the others, it likely would recall a more electrified Fleet Foxes. Sure, there are plenty of jangly acoustic guitars on the record, but for the most part, Pool Party is predominately a distorted record that lacks the discipline to celebrate the folkier elements that were almost assuredly included on demos for the record. Unlike others of their ilk, Ponderosa has a tendency to include epic psychadelic freak-outs complete with synths and sporadic drumming at the end of their songs (“Here I Am Born” and “The Nile” are representative examples from Pool Party that use this decision), a move that would probably persuade die-hard fans of Fleet Foxes to pass on Ponderosa.

The title track on Pool Party has glimmers of '90s power-pop that used to fit nicely on soundtracks for movies marketed to sexually pent-up teenagers (the song would almost assuredly be chosen for a key scene in a sequel to Can’t Hardly Wait). Much like the rest of the record, there are non-narrative (yet still cinematic) qualities to the lyrics found in the song: “We wake up passed out in yards / On your floor, backseats of cars / Find a bed and never sleep / Awake at night and steal the sheets.” The now-ubiquitous ambiance produced by sustained and distorted guitars works nicely here, but the guitars distract the listener from investing in the lyrics that grace the song.

Things slow down quite a bit on Side-B of Pool Party, and that’s certainly a good thing. On this half of the record, sounds become more focused and the band hones in on creating atmospheric sounds that accompany sentimental lyrics. “Heather” is a hazy, slow ballad with very nice vocal harmonies and is perhaps the album’s most pleasant song. With lines like “Oh, how I’ll never be quite the same,” it’s hard not to interpret the song as a sludgy, psychedelic ode to some of the great ballads addressed to women with a specific name in the '70s.

“Get a Gun” includes a few industrial elements, putting to use electronic drums and harmonized vocals that show that blending contrasting sounds can reap many rewards for Ponderosa. “Cold Hearted Man”, the album’s closer, is a capella for almost the first third of the song. Spare guitar picking and a bass drum keep the song from going off its tracks (even though one expects that it will, it stays sedate throughout).

The release of Pool Party provides further evidence that something like a formation is solidifying in indie rock among bands who are using reverb in such a sustained, deliberate way. Ponderosa show a lot of promise on Pool Party, but it’s obvious that they’ll need a few more rounds in the ring before they will be considered serious contenders.





Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".


Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"


'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.


Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.


DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.


On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.


Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.


Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.


100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.


What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.


Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.


Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.