The way we discover music has evolved rapidly over the last decade in the wave of digital overthrow. Gone are the days of simply wandering through any given music store, being intrigued by an album, pulling it out, and taking a chance on it, putting your cash down, betting on the music of strangers, feeling even more justified when it turns out that your hunch was right all along.
Today, the browsing still remains intact, but instead of shelves inside cramped record stores, we’re walking up and down the aisles of YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. We’re still intrigued by album covers, but we don’t have to worry too much about if the music behind it is any good or not. If it isn’t we simply put it back and continue on our way, and with the glut of so many artists out there, how is it that we can truly find a new discovery that really speaks to us the way that special album did?
The answer, of course, is simply to adapt because if we truly try, we can always find that album that takes us completely by surprise and changes our lives in a way we never thought possible.
I discovered this feeling earlier this year when I stumbled across the album Pony by Orville Peck.
It’s easy to be sucked in by Pony’s cover, with nothing but a masked cowboy, leather strings hanging over a hidden mouth, a smirk hiding at each corner. There is nothing but red behind him. The album does not announce who Orville Peck is, or that the album is even called Pony at all. That’s for us to discover for ourselves.
Pony opens with Dead of Night, luring you inside a velvety room with sparse, haunting chords that wouldn’t sound out of place inside the world of Twin Peaks. And then Orville’s voice creeps out of the darkness and boldly makes its presence known, inviting you to come along into a world made of night, lit only by the red and blue neon lights of the lonely cowboy bars you’ll pass along the way. The deep baritone ascends into a lilting croon, pulling back the red curtain to reveal an endless sadness, but the sadness isn’t oppressive, it lifts the burden of the listener’s own sadness.
The journey continues.
Orville takes his listeners through windswept plains, abandoned rodeos, ghost towns, dive bars, endless dreams that refuse to die, and cracked hearts that refuse to break. Peck’s songs cover the entire emotional spectrum while keeping a consistent atmosphere and tone locked inside. It’s an impressive debut for a new artist. But outside of all, it’s technical and structural achievements, what makes Pony so unique and special, at least to me, is that the timing of its entrance into my life could not have been more perfect.
When I first listened to Pony, I was alone, I was scared, and I was heartbroken. I felt unsure of my future, or even my present, for that matter. In that very moment, the only thing I felt sure of was music coming through the headphones while I walked my dog. It was a reminder of what purpose music can serve for us. It’s not a unique revelation, even to me, but without realizing, I had forgotten recently, relegating most of the music I listened to as nothing but background noise. Pony woke me up from this. It made me see everything in a whole new light, going back and rediscovering the albums that meant the most to me.
Orville Peck is still relatively new. Pony was released by Sub Pop Records though, which is a giant in the independent music business, so here’s hoping that Peck has a long and fruitful career ahead of him, honing his already quite impressive craft. One thing is for sure, I will be right alongside him for the next album, riding that pony into a never-ending sunset.