Lake Street Dive: Side Pony

It may stand out from current trends, but trust us: you'll want to rock this Side Pony.
Lake Street Dive
Side Pony

And here they are. Signed to a bigger label (Nonesuch), working with alt-country producer du jour Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton’s Traveller, Sturgil Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds of Country Music), and leaning harder-than-ever into their ’70s-inspired rock and soul grooves than ever before.

Sure, some may call the rise of Boston’s Lake Street Dive something next to meteoric, but the jazz-bred foursome are only just now on the cusp of something much bigger, as their quirky cover songs and their friendship with the likes of Stephen Colbert have lead to them becoming regulars on NPR rotations but not exactly household names. Although they’ve always exhibited a love for classic soul and ’70s pop-rock, never has that love come into sharper focus than with Side Pony. their brightest and most tuneful album.

The band is comprised of nothing but songwriters, but so often those songs hang around the sturdier-than-steels vocals of Rachael Price. Her coos and swoops help anchor rousing anthems like “Hell Yeah” and the playful soul shrug that is the playful title track, but when she needs to sell emotion, she can, as the “I can do it all by myself” number “How Good It Feels” breathes because Price places that intention behind every word, sometimes even going for the uber-personal like she does on the album highlight “Spectacular Failure”, which name-checks a wannabe player named Bobby who just can’t win the romance game no matter what. It’s fun, striking, and filled to the brim with personality.

By taking a definitively ’70s sheen this time out, checking everything from disco (“Call Off Your Dogs”) to AOR guitar work (“I Don’t Care About You”), the album radiates far more than their previous records, even if some songs, like “Can’t Stop” with its cut-and-spliced samples, stretch just a wee bit too far outside of their stylistic target zone for comfort. At times, Side Pony can be a bit too breezy or precious for its own good (lullaby-ballad “So Long” strikes a lot of good poses but is astoundingly forgetful given what it’s surrounded by), but at the end of the day, it’s hard to argue with a group that merges so many instruments together to form a sound that feels like warm sunshine on a summer day. It may stand out from current trends, but trust us: you’ll want to rock this Side Pony.

RATING 7 / 10