In what could be considered one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, Rex Orange County, also known as Alexander O’Connor, has made his triumphant return to indie lovers everywhere, with his new album ‘Pony’. With this being the first batch of new music from this beloved artist since 2016, the album feels like a new venture, and is delivered with more maturity, intricacy and blunt honesty.
Beginning with the single of the album ‘10/10’, a track about the young artist’s less than appealing year, it is this piece that could be considered to stray furthest from Rex’s notorious sound. We’re not used to hearing his normally raw voice, filled with auto tune and backed with heavy synths, and yet the catchy track is all the more endearing opener for it. But this isn’t where the shifts in musicality stop. O’Connor has proven himself to be able to work with intricate melodies and harmonies with standout songs songs of the past, but on this album we really see the artist flesh out his tracks musically. From the extended flute dialogues heard at the end of ‘Laser Lights’, to the minimal, yet captivating backing of ‘Pluto Project’, each of the track’s instrumentation, pacing and backing seem to fit the moods of the songs perfectly, enhancing Rex’s already iconic voice, and adding cohesion to the album as a whole.
However, a much more surprising element to the album, is the maturity that the artist seems to display compared to his other works. Whilst previous albums saw Rex’s message becoming easily clouded by admittedly poetic lyrics, it is on this album that the listener is treated to a candid depiction of O’Connor himself, who opens up about how much he does, and conversely, doesn’t know. Having been refreshingly honest about the struggles he experienced with fake friends in 10/10, through the second half of the album, County becomes even more personal in the standout track ‘Everyway’, a gorgeous song that tells of how O’Connor’s partner has impacted his life. However, what can be considered the most captivating moments of O’Connor’s release comes from how directly he addresses the impact of fame; the closer of the album ‘It’s Not The Same’ is the most honest Rex gets, breaking into the harsh side of stardom, how that affected him directly, and his subsequent search for help. It’s heartbreakingly candid, and yet seems like a turning point for County, who admits in the song that speaking openly is hard for him and that this honesty comes with recovery. It serves as the perfect ending to a brutally honest album, leaving the listener with a more intimate understanding of the music, and the artist as a whole.
Overall, the album serves as an exciting, intricate and honest reintroduction to this young performer. It’s a credit to Rex’s progression as a musician who has been able to produce an album that stays true to his adored sound, whilst still providing tracks that are mature, honest and musically astounding. He gave us everything we didn’t even know we needed from his previous works, and this new venture can be summed up best by the last lines that Rex leaves us with: “It’s not the same anymore, it’s better.”