Review ·

The last two things the world needs at this point are another sibling duo picking up instruments and another band offering quirky, acoustic campfire songs. Ponies in the Surf, a.k.a. Camille and Alexander McGregor, must have missed that memo: Their debut full-length, Ponies on Fire, gets all Kumbaya on your ass early and often. Time to pull the knives out, right? Wrong. I've always regarded math as some voodoo that geeks do, but even I know that multiplying two negatives makes a positive, and the science holds here.


So if these guys aren't bringing anything new to the table, you ask, then why the free pass? For starters, they steer clear of some of their contemporaries' more frustrating qualities. Camille's delicate whispered vocals prove that at least one member of the McGregor family can sing (I'm looking at you Friedbergers). The realization that not being able to play an instrument means you should leave it to those who can is also welcome (nothing personal, Meg).


The real key to Ponies on Fire's success is simple, though: The band members know their limitations and abide by them. There's no overextension, no ridiculous gimmicks or vanity-project aspirations. Instead, Ponies in the Surf sticks to what made its debut EP, A Demonstration, appealing in the first place: minimal instrumentation by Alexander - usually just an acoustic guitar - with Camille lending her pleasing vocals overtop her brother's. This minimalism allows their real strength - the understated epiphanies scattered throughout their lyrics - to take center stage. Focusing on your strengths isn't rocket science, but it's surprising how few artists get it right. 


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