When the opportunity was offered to review TV Baby, the debut album from Pony out April 9, 2021 via Take This To Heart Records, I threw my hand up and was ready to fight off any others who were interested with a large and pointy stick.
I had first gotten back into live shows and the Toronto music scene towards the end of 2015. On a very regular basis I would go to the smaller venues like the Monarch Tavern, Sneaky Dee’s and the Horseshoe Tavern to see up-and-coming bands strut their stuff. Pony was one of those bands that I had seen numerous times either on stage or in the audience supporting their peers. They had a handful of poppy-punk songs on Apple Music and Spotify that got regular rotation on my playlists.
A couple weeks ago, Pony opened for the Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs live stream for the launch of their new album Real One, broadcasted from the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, and I wanted to see/hear them. Two of my favorite Toronto bands performing from my favorite venue. I held off listening to the advance of the album so that I could hear some of the tracks live. To my delight, Pony performed 6 of the 10 tracks from TV Baby.
When I sat down to listen to TV Baby for the first time, I wasn’t ready for the raw, emotional direction of the effort. As a 47-year-old father of a teenaged daughter (and a tween son), I felt like I was sitting on my kids’ bed clandestinely reading their diary. Lead singer Sam Bielanski sings of their fears, disappointments and triumphs.
On my phone I have a meme of a record player with the caption, “Music is my Therapy,” and I have a feeling that Bielanski, along with friends Pretty Matty (Matty Morland) and Lucas Horne, used the opportunity to get so much off their chests and face their challenges head-on.
The album opens with “Chokecherry,” a song about a relationship that is on its last legs. Bielanski sings about their frustration with the other person involved; telling them that they are tired of their bullshit; It being transparent the partner hasn’t changed and they have to do more than talk – It’s time to listen.
“Web MD” was the first single released from the album and the track that made me realize just how personal this effort was going to be. It’s a song about fighting demons and self-doubt. The refrain, “I don’t want to need anyone because anyone can pull me down,” made me realize, as a father of a 14-year-old girl, that self-doubt and insecurities are not always easy to notice. I wondered if my daughter ever felt that way and it led to a very good conversation between us (thanks Pony).
“Furniture” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s deceiving, the upbeat happy music going against the pain one feels trying to please others and the feeling of failure when you don’t live up to their expectations. Instead of going to school and leading a life that would make others proud, the protagonist hides, rearranging the furniture in their room to give them a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
The second pre-released single from the album, “Couch,” continues with the theme of feeling like they’ve let their friends and family down. The lyricist lets their family know that they see through the bullshit when they tell them that they are proud of what they’ve done. This theme perpetuates into “My Room,” where the lyricist admits this is where they feel most comfortable, with nobody else around and the anxiety associated with having to please others not hanging over their head.
“Cry” comes from the other side – it’s a song of support for someone that’s hurting. “I hate to see you cry and I hate the reason why you did.” Recognizing that sometimes people put on a false front so that others won’t notice what they are really feeling.
The last song, “Swore,” has a real 90s pop punk feel to it, something that Kirsten Dunst or Alicia Silverstone could have been seen dancing around in their room in one of those high school coming-of-age movies.