Ponderosa - Pool Party
Record Label: New West Records
Release Date: Aug. 2, 2012
The Atlanta indie rock quintet Ponderosa are self-described as psychedelic Southern rock with bits of soul. While that's probably a fair way of describing them, they're also hallucinatory, histrionic and hyper-kinetic. Their sophomore LP Pool Party is an arresting disc that is richly constructed, expertly played and nary a flaw. Lead single "Navajo," is fiery, feral and nothing short of infectious.
Album opener "For Here I Am, Born," is soulful and crackling. The song begins slow and seems rooted in patience and cadence before segueing into a stormy, rattling rocker. That dalliance between slow soul-rock and feisty guitar-driven howling permeates much of Pool Party. "Black Hill Smoke," seems steeped in Southern mist and fog, like a hazy July morning in Warner Robins; while "Never Come Back," is languid and forlorn before building into something dreamy and ambient, almost luminiscent. One of the disc's true highlights is the title track, a lingering and enveloping anthem that is undeniably catchy. "Pool Party," feels much like "Black Hill Smoke," but is far more ruminative and is everything a title track should be.
"Heather," is gauzy, smooth and suave. That sense of smoothness is repeated in "Nile," but the song seems more interested in psychedelia and seems trapped in a drug haze. But "The Nile," is also pulsing and probing and pushes towards a distinct sense of triumph much like "Navajo," and "For Here I Am Born." "Get a Gun," features glimmering guitars and a psychedelic gloss that's too hard to ignore. There's a snap and crackle at work here though that keeps the song from getting stale. Penultimate track "On Your Time," and final track "Cold Hearted Man," are arguably two of the disc's best and have a reedy assurance that helps make Pool Party that much better. That "Cold Hearted Man," also serves as the final track is no coincidence. In many ways it feels like Pool Party was building towards this kind of finish all along.
But all the accolades aside, Pool Party can at times be a tough disc to get into. Nash mumbles his vocals, almost as if he's singing from the corners of his mouth. Because of this, much of the disc seems tethered to the sonic landscapes the band creates. This is a problem because Nash is an immensely gifted vocalist. In short-changing himself, he weakens the impact of his utterances and intonations. This is not to say that he is indecipherable, but he certainly softens the impact by failing to enunciate clearly. That small gripe aside, Pool Party is nothing short of fabulous and certainly points to a bright and promising future for one of the South's best new bands.