Great Albums You May Have Missed: “Pony” Recounts Working Through Mentally Tough Times


Fia Cooper

Many of the songs on Rex Orange County’s “Pony” relate to struggling with mental health and the effects it can have on a person.

Olivia Galbraith, Editor

The following article discusses music containing explicit content.

22-year-old London native Alex O’Connor, known as Rex Orange County, released his third album “Pony” on Oct. 25, 2019.

I had never listened to Rex Orange County before “Pony.” The only songs I knew from him were those recommended to me by friends, and two of his more popular singles, “Best Friend” and “Loving is Easy.” 

His two other albums, “Bcos U Will Never B Free” and “Apricot Princess,” were released in 2016 and 2017. Rex Orange County also worked with Tyler, The Creator on the song “Boredom” and Randy Newman for his cover of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

“Pony” was supposed to have a full tour, but the coronavirus pandemic cut the European leg short and the tour didn’t get to reach every destination. 

Rex Orange County’s YouTube channel recently posted a short documentary titled “Funny How Things Go From One Thing To Another,” about his band, tours, and creative process. 

The first time I heard “Pony,” I was into it — the album mainly falls under the indie pop or alternative genre, which I typically listen to. The upbeat songs were the ones that stuck out to me initially, but after listening to the album many times, the slower songs are now some of my favorites.

I would divide the 10 tracks into songs that feel more pop than indie, and then songs that you sing in the car by yourself after a really hard day. Not coincidentally, the album is also divided into songs with optimism, and songs with lyrics that are just plain sad. 

“10/10” kicks off the album. This is one of the more upbeat songs, featuring O’Connor’s vocals about how he wants to feel like a “10” after a bad year. With emphasis on electronic sounding keys and percussion, it leans closer to pop.

“Always” is the second song on the album, and while it may not sound like the usual ballad about feeling lonely, its lyrics drive home that same idea. “It’s hard to make yourself believe/ That it’ll get better when you feel defeated/ And carrying on is easier said than done,” O’Connor sings. Though not complex or metaphorical, I think the simplicity of the lyrics makes his music more relatable, and this song is one of my favorites on the album. 

However, at times throughout the album, the sound effects and layering of instruments can overpower O’Connor’s straightforward lyrics. Synth and background noises can enhance an individual song, but putting those unique pieces on almost every track on the album takes away from the whole. 

Track seven, “Pluto Projector,” is my favorite song on the album. For me, every aspect of this song comes together for four minutes and 28 seconds of satisfaction. 

O’Connor’s voice stands out in this song, with guitar elegantly complimenting him rather than overpowering his voice. About a minute into the song, the beat comes in with soft layered vocals and piano, but it feels airy and purposeful, rather than thrown together just for the sake of having stacked instrumentals. 

For me, “Pluto Projector” balances instruments with lyrics that appreciate O’Connor’s relationship and the support he has drawn from it, all while adding a hint of suspense that is satisfying to listen to.  

The idea of ups and downs in relationships shows up multiple times throughout the album, but the main focus seems to be personal growth after times of mental isolation, loneliness, or defeat. 

The last song on the album is “It’s Not The Same Anymore.” The longest song on the album, this track wraps up the story told in the album about struggling mentally, accompanied by soothing horns, guitar, and some strings.

There are so many powerful lyrics in this final song that can be related to, and it’s also one of those songs that falls under the “sing in the car after a long day” category. “I lost the joy in my face/ My life was simple before/ I should be happy, of course,” he sings. “But things just got much harder/ Now it’s just hard to ignore.” The chorus of this song has some of my favorite lyrics of being open about mental health, and the song is overall optimistic about getting help from others and getting better. 

Though 10/10 would be an appropriate rating for this album considering its first track, I give “Pony” an overall 8/10. The album balances fast and slow tempos and a variety of emotions, though the tracks begin to blend into one another, as the similar sounding background instruments can overpower at times.