Pool Party is a summer album in more ways than one. Forget the timing alone; this is the album that will make you crave the long, lazy nights and hot sticky days long after the heat has retreated.
Gone are the days of Ponderosa’s familiar Southern twang. The Atlanta-based quintet has made an abrupt turn away from the blues-rock roots it established in its debut, Moonlight Revival. Instead, they’ve turned to soft, psychadelic indie rock, favoring a sound that’s more like Fleet Foxes. The jump from Moonlight Revival to Pool Party is so dramatic that it’s hard to believe this is the same band.
Pool Party is a series of sleepy ballads drenched in the nostalgia of our youth. Its lyrics are brimming with former loves and faded memories, and with every new song it ticks off yet another experience many have known. Though its opening is soft, establishing the hazy, dreamy sound that will carry much of the album, it occasionally breaks the mold. “Navajo,” the debut single, is more than the album’s first breakout song. It’s indie rock at its finest.
Instantly interesting and catchy to boot, “Navajo” is a track you’ll want to spend some time with. Its lyrics are simplistic and at times garbled, but strangely poetic. “Everything’s better in the dark/We drain the sun from the stars,” sings Kalen Nash, mournful yet empowered in this revelation. He sings of “young pride” with conviction, reminding us all of lessons we’ve learned; listeners are free to let their own interpretations run wild.
Follow-up track “Never Come Back” is back to heartbreak business with tales of lost love. Nash’s voice has a gentle quality to it, and this is a track that really drives that home. Subsequent tracks, including “Pool Party” and “Heather,” settle back into the land of sleepy romanticism; it’s almost too easy to picture couples slow dancing and sighing in contentment.
The problem with Pool Party is that it doesn’t regain the energy it found with “Navajo” until it reaches “On Your Time,” the second-to-last track. It continues to float lazily along through a majority of its tracks. The band’s shift in style works, and often works well, but Ponderosa’s new sound is nothing we haven’t heard before. Pool Party is a great soundtrack for lazy days and long nights, but even summer must end.
As Pool Party drifts steadily toward its close, its very sun is setting. “Cold Hearted Man” closes the album out slowly and steadily, relying heavily on Nash’s vocals to dim the lights. And although it can’t top those it’s drawn inspiration from, it will still be worthy of a listen months from now, long after summer days have ended. After all, everything’s better in the dark.