Make Love to the Judges with Your Eyes Label: Dim Mak
At long last, here it is. The first CD of 2006 that I’ve deemed worthy of the five-star rating. And the year’s already half over, so what does that tell you about the amount of truly great albums coming out? Don’t be fooled. While other albums by bigger, well-known acts may get high accolades this year, you don’t need to worry about that. All you need to know is that Pony Up! and their Make Love to the Judges with Your Eyes is the most original, the most entrancing, the most beautiful, and the catchiest-in-the-weirdest-ways release you’re going to hear all year. And, like it happened with me, it’s only going to take that very first listen to it to prove all of the above.
Pony Up! are from Montreal, and make no mistake, this is not another goofball export from our Canadian neighbors like the Barenaked Ladies. They’re an all-girl group as well, comprised of sisters Laura and Lindsay Wills, Sarah Moundroukas, and Lisa J. Smith. But before you get into your heads that this is just another candy pop cutesy group or a group of young ladies doing the abysmal fake punk routine, just stop right there. It’s actually hard to pinpoint exactly what Pony Up! do, as their sound is a mix of things that sound familiar, but in the hands of the band, sound entirely new. It’s both stripped down and ornate, melancholy and happy, poppy yet indispensable, and so forth: opposites working together simultaneously on all cylinders.
It’s obvious from the first track, “Dance for Me” that something’s really different here. The song starts out rather bare and simple, almost giving one the impression that this is going to be one of those folksy, fragile things. But there’s something to the lyrics, something to the melody even in a skeletal state. And then, gradually, the rest of the band kicks in and suddenly the music is moving and moving as well. It’s just one of those experiences where you find yourself immediately wanting to hear what’s going to happen on the next song and the next, because there hasn’t been anything like this in a while, if ever.
If there’s one act you could possibly compare Pony Up! to – and it’s only briefly, mind you because of the vocals at the chorus of “The Truth about Cats and Dogs (Is That They Die)” – it’s Tegan and Sara. But that’s not really fair, because this band is so far and beyond what that duo records that it’s not even funny. But anyone familiar with that act will realize this as soon as the addictive “Horrible Harm” and beautiful “The Best Offence” start playing. What Pony Up! has done here is simply create high quality, timeless music from an indie-saturated pool where it’s getting harder and harder to find originality anymore.
So there you have it. Make Love to the Judges with Your Eyes is one you should run out and buy immediately. Become entranced in songs like “Only Feelgood” and “What’s Free is Yours,” while trying to figure out how those semi-classical piano parts meld so instinctively with those clear-as-a-bell guitars, creating this artistic brew that doesn’t ever get pretentious or too dramatic. You’ll cry during some songs, you’ll feel your faith invigorated once again by others. This album is simply a rare masterpiece where it all just works, period. Pony Up! is the group you should be keeping your eyes and ears on in the future. If they continue building in the direction they’re going, only amazing things can be created.