Alex O’Connor —widely known as Rex Orange County— released his third studio album entitled Pony this past Friday, encouraging fans to recognize their own youth and remember it well.
When the debut single “10/10” dropped, it was hard to assume the title was referring to what would be, in my opinion, his best work. He sings “I had to think about my oldest friends/Now, I no longer hang with them.” Calling attention to the inevitably of growing up, Rex forces the audience to recognize the relationships that often fade, whether it be what we expected or not.
The album still holds on to Rex’s signature sound – heavy on piano and most songs rely on beats that tend to sound older. On songs like “Laser Lights” and “Face to Face”, lyrics hang loosely on nostalgia and relationships. It could have been anticipated that Rex would draw inspiration from his own love life, as it’s not his first time doing so.
But, despite what a fan could have expected, Pony stands out among his past work. Rex is often labeled an alternative artist and while the album contains a series of songs sure to make their way onto indie radio, this album can appeal to a bigger crowd. It’s a relatable feeling — growing up, losing things and trying to maintain balance in a hectic world. The lyrics on Pony are more straightforward; there’s no guessing.
Rex sings, “I’m still a boy inside my thoughts/Am I meant to understand my faults?,” on another pre-released track, “Pluto Projector.” Teasing fans, Rex posted a mysterious phone number on twitter. When dialed, listeners would hear a one-minute snippet of the track. It’s an honest song, one that merely mimics a similar beat to artists like Frank Ocean. One of the best on the record, it tackles dealing with the pressure you put on yourself, as well as the pressure that surrounds you in a relationship. Rex acknowledges the endless reel of enticement from the outside, but he offers himself as someone just as good.
Towards the end of the album, Rex sounds semi-hopeful. Getting older happens regardless and for what it’s worth, a small, independent artist from a village in England has done well. But, Rex has shown time and time again that his success as an artist does not erase his wrongdoings and personal insecurities.
The final and longest track, “It’s Not The Same Anymore,” can leave listeners feeling a bit conflicted. Another song about the reality of growing up, it suggests that the change Rex has endured has left him in a haze of self-doubt. He sings, “I lost the joy in my face/My life was simple before/I should be happy, of course, but things just got much harder.” Whether it's a relationship, a perception of yourself, sometimes things can get lost in change, a sense of loneliness hangs weary in the lyrics for the majority of the song. As a listener, if you really ingest the lyrics, you begin to dwell on your own past and question the real meaning of change.
While some might argue it as entirely too pessimistic, I argue that it’s what a lot of music is missing. Rex isn’t worried about hurting feelings, shying away from the honest truth. In a world plagued with negative headlines, Rex is taking his turn, telling those that listen: no one really knows how to deal with it.
Final Grade: A
Emily Knepple is a writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.