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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

Ponies In The Surf
A Demonstration (CD)

"What a year it's been." That oft repeated phrase turns up toward the end of the Ponies In The Surf song "Gipirales" and pretty much sums up the crop of unheralded watery CDs we've often gotten here at Shmat. Well, gosh if this album didn't brighten my day, gladden my step, and give me hope that there really are great bands to discover out there hidden amongst the heaps of mediocrity.

The Ponies In The Surf collection A Demonstration is one of the most poignant and beautiful EPs I've gotten all year long. With hushed breathy vocals, the brother and sister team of Camille and Alexander McGregor create delicate folk pop songs that are aligned along the wispy and whimsical ways of Kings of Convenience, Serge Gainsborough and Camera Obscura. The sound is enticingly bare and unflinchingly direct. No tricks here, just song after song of great pop melodies. And if you detect a slight Latin-American theme running through some of the songs, that may or may not be due to the siblings' Colombian heritage (interestingly, they also apparently had a great-grandfather who played trombone in Tommy Dorsey's band). Whether or not this musical talent bloodline has any bearing on their work, they write some truly engaging songs.

"See You Happy" opens the album with beautiful dual vocals by the brother-sister combo accompanied only by a simple acoustic guitar. I love the way it's often difficult to tell who is singing on this song. Because Alexander often sings in a fairly high falsetto range nearer to his sister's, it's like getting two amazing, similar yet very distinct voices in every line. "More to Living" uses guitar arppegios to present the simple statement that life is "more than a search for thrills... more than a Hollywood show." "Ventricle" sets forlorn conga/bongo hits to playful vocal line tradeoffs between the two. Cha-cha-cha indeed!

On "Government Brand" Alexander's falsetto yearnings come across almost like an old John Lennon tune. "Je T'aime" presents a beautiful picked country ballad sung in the requisite French, but where it might appear as campy fodder in other bands, the Ponies succeed in creating a nearly creepy old world atmosphere that sounds like it was taken straight out of the soundtrack to a black and white foreign art film. Did I mention that Alexander's a pretty durn good guitar player? Well, I don't know as much about this style, but his choice of chords sure sound sweet to me. Speaking of sweet, "Sweet and Low" employs soft fingersnaps and simple "bum-bum" utterances to create a fun little intro into the aforementioned "Gipirales" which besides being a great double time folk acoustic number contains one of my favorite phrases on the disc... "Two-headed dragons!"

Well, now I'm left simply speechless and you all know that Rabbit ain't usually that tongue tied. Not a clinker in the bunch... simply amazing, you must get this EP and listen to it yourself.

- review by RABBIT (11.3.04)        

Early Morning Late Night
325 Huntington Ave. #101
Boston MA 02115

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