The Pony Collaboration
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The Pony Collaboration

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"The Pony Collaboration - The Pony Collaboration"

It's hard to picture what goes on in most student bedsits these days, but one can imagine that studying is definitely near the bottom of the agenda.

Which is all good as far as we're concerned if this record, the debut album by Cambridge/London eight-piece The Pony Collaboration, is anything to go by.

Student generalisations aside (cue e-mails from band members' relatives insisting their sons/daughter left with a healthy 2:1 in architecture years ago), this record covers about every emotion possible within its half- hour or so, and crosses a number of different musical avenues on both sides of the Atlantic along the way.

Largely centring around the dual vocal interplay of James Scallan and Claire Williams, The Pony Collaboration sounds like one of those records that was conceived in the first murmurs of Spring, recorded on a hot Summer's day and then given its first public airing during the hazy breeze of Autumn.

In parts there is a sense of laziness - but in a good way - that almost gives the impression they could knock another half-dozen records out like this for fun in the future.

At other times it feels like a group of friends entering the first stages of maturity - imagine if Los Campesinos!'s elder siblings formed a band and you'd be on the right track.

Scallan's voice - occasionally fragile like that of Bob Wratten (of Field Mice and Trembling Blue Stars fame), sometimes pent up and taut with fury like Aidan Moffatt at his fieriest ('Slumming Expedition'), then plaintive and poignant like a youthful David Gedge ('Let Go') - sounds at its most charmed and tranquil on the duet with Williams on 'Don't Stay', a song which inevitably draws comparisons with the likes of Belle And Sebastian.

The musicianship is also a joy to behold - despite the plethora of styles and instrumentation throughout the record, at no point do the band feel the need to bludgeon the listener's ears to death in a halo of noise, which is simply down to the fact that there is nothing really negative to hide about this record.

All in all, then, a good day at the office. Or should that be the student union?

8/10
- Drowned In Sound


"THE PONY COLLABORATION – The Pony Collaboration (Series 8)."

Maybe it helps that the sun came out and right now we’re basking in the beauty of a breezy spring afternoon? Or maybe this would be just as charming and refreshing on dull wet day? Yes, I think it would. Whatever, this really is delightfully uplifting and positively charming. Delicate, refined, relaxed, very English sounding Americana if you can have such a thing – you can’t, but you know what I mean don’t you? A tea and fine bone china take on that Calixico easiness. Very easy, unforced, natural and they really do sound like they come from Cambridge. Just perfect pop, perfect tunes, perfect production, perfect textures, everything feels just so right. Loaded with warmth and soul and maybe even a hint of breezy Northern Soul in there with the strings and the glockenspiel and melodica and the refined percussion. Positively lazy pop to get lost in for hours and hours – recommended - ORGAN


"Pony Collaboration: If These are the Good Times"

'If These are the Good Times' is the second album by the eight-strong British band the Pony Collaboration; their eponymous debut was released in 2007 to some pretty good reviews.

‘If These are the Good Times’ follows more or less the same musical path as that debut but deserves even more acclaim. The main problem the band is going to have in attracting new fans is that the packaging of the CD really lets the music down. I’ve had this CD in a small pile for some weeks now and it’s been the last one I’ve listened to for one simple fact; it didn’t look very interesting. I’d be the first to say that we shouldn’t judge the musical content by what’s on the cover but I honestly can’t see many people who are looking through CDs in a shop ( if people actually still do that…) picking this CD up just by chance as the cover caught their attention. It’s drab, colourless and totally unappealing. Which is everything the music isn’t…

Ok, rant over but the band is not going to pick up any new listeners with a CD that looks so unappealing. But the music…well it has to be said that if you like Tindersticks especially their ‘Can Our Love…’ album then you’ll love ‘If These are the Good Times’. It’s not just that main man James Scallan is not vocally dissimilar to Stuart Staples with his dark brown almost whispered delivery but the whole feel, particularly the guitar sound, is reminiscence of Tindersticks.

But the Pony Collaboration have added a new dimension to this Tindersticks sound. In Ellie Walker they have a female vocalist who adds some much needed texture and lightness which makes the resulting sound much more appealing and transforms it into something new and exciting. And I guess exciting is not an adjective you could use when describing a Tindersticks album.

If all this makes the Pony Collaboration sound like Tindersticks clones then I apologise, although in the absence of anything new from that excellent band I'd welcome any group who sound remotely like them. It has to be said that the Pony Collaboration show enough of their own identity and display some nice little touches to the music to make them more than just a duplicate.

For starters James Scallan’s songs are built around tunes you just can’t get away from. These are tunes that at once sound familiar but you can’t remember just where you’ve heard them before. His vocals are not as melancholy as those of Stuart Staples, and Ellie Walker’s vocals are the perfect foil to Scallan’s; her sweet, indie-type vocals providing the light for Scallan’s dark whispers to shine at least a little brightly. Despite the band being eight strong the music is never overwhelming, never a wall of dense noise. Violins weave in and out of the songs, a glockenspiel is struck here and there and the pedal steel even makes an appearance. All in all the Pony Collaboration make a sound that is truly beautiful, there really is no other word for it.

The albums opening two songs are in a slow-tempo which, coupled with the vocal sound, brings on those Tindersticks comparisons but by track three, ‘I Never Knew’, the band show another side with the first of a handful of up-tempo songs, this one featuring brass which works really well. It’s unexpected after the almost deathly slow title track that precedes it ; one is almost set for a whole album of melancholy songs but no, The Pony Collaboration prove they are more than a one-trick pony…sorry couldn’t resist that!

This really is an excellent album albeit one that I strongly feel would fare a lot better if it was more attractively dressed, it really is too good to be passed over just because it looks like it could bring on a bout of depression when, in fact, the opposite is true. I would be hard pushed to name a recent album off the top of my head that contained so many beautiful sounds and two vocalists who are so different yet so suited to each other.

To think I almost passed up on this stunning album due to a dull cover, don’t make the same mistake; if you like tunes that are easy to live with but with some substance behind them and still appreciate artists who can really sing then make the Pony Collaboration your next purchase…this band really do deserve to break through with this album.

- Pennyblackmusic


"Album Review : The Pony Collaboration - If These Are The Good Times"

Little known The Pony Collaboration release their second album this November and at the moment, I feel like it’s a little gem that only I know about and I don’t want to share. It’s fantastic; a cosy security blanket of melancholic and understated pop that has a charm all of its own.


With the emotive depth of Tindersticks, the poppy sentiment of Camera Obscura and the modesty of Pavement, ‘If These Are The Good Times’ comprises of ten warming folk tunes that are instantly accessible without the need for try-hard hooks and repetitive choruses. In fact like all great artists, The Pony Collaboration sound effortless in their delivery, as if their music was the result of a fortuitous jam during one long and lethargic afternoon.


A hefty eight members make up this band but you wouldn’t know it; the music is delicate and unbloated, every instrument perfectly applied to tug at your emotions. As inconspicuous as this album might seem, it’s a heavyweight when it comes to connecting with the listener. Take opener ‘Until It’s Gone’; the idiosyncratic male-female vocals set the tone for the album, yearning as they sing whilst violins soar along in the choruses. Title track ‘If These Are The Good Times’ is full of regret and an impassioned plea to a loved is one carried through the song by a swell of strings, piano and guitar.


Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom, as the upbeat ‘I Never Knew’ testifies and ‘Monopoly On Sound’ showcases the bands ability to craft perfect instrumentals. But whatever the feel, every song is bound together by a quiet bitter-sweet sentiment that runs through the recording.


It’s not often that quiet bands like this are able to evoke such strong feeling, but The Pony Collaboration do just this. The whole record is an introspective journey that is a sad as it is uplifting. It was once said that John Peel’s success was down to the fact that it sounded like he was talking to you alone, rather than an army of listeners and perhaps the same could be said for this very personal album. Let’s just hope the well deserved success comes with it.
- Music Liberation


Discography

Albums:

The Pony Collaboration (2007)
If These Are The Good Times (2009)

Singles:

Slumming Expedition (2005)
The Fast Lane (2007)

Photos

Bio

The Pony Collaboration are a band who enjoy talking about themselves in the third person. They have released two albums on a small independent record label called Series 8, done a couple of tours and supported many more successful acts such as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Frank Turner, Stornoway, Darren Hayman and The Secondary Modern, Allo Darlin' and The Wave Pictures.

The band’s debut album was named ‘DisCover Album of the Month’ on the Drowned In Sound music website. The follow up, ‘If These Are The Good Times’, was described by the NME as being 'so drippy that if your mum ever walked in on you listening to it you'd have to pretend you were masturbating just to avoid the embarrassment' . The Pony Collaboration no longer live with their mums.