Staygold and the Ponyboys, 'Staygold and the Ponyboys' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Staygold and the Ponyboys, 'Staygold and the Ponyboys'

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Staygold and the Ponyboys, Staygold and the Ponyboys - COURTESY
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  • Staygold and the Ponyboys, Staygold and the Ponyboys

(Self-released, digital)

Burlington's Staygold and the Ponyboys describe their sound as "genre-fluid." Considering how many bands like to lean on the "eclectic" tag, it's OK to be skeptical. When pressed, however, the duo calls its strange blend of lo-fi, brooding music "space country" — a pretty apt moniker for its five-song, self-titled EP.

Staygold and the Ponyboys do indeed spray their influences around. "All I Need" opens the record with all the energy of a barfly stumbling home at 3 a.m., full of booze and regret. Shuffling drums; slow, echo-laden guitars; and an almost ecclesiastic organ help build a fitting sonic template for vocalist Ben Rose's baritone delivery.

It's a vibe, however, that the band has abandoned by the next track, the bouncing, smirking "Spaceships (and Timetravel)." Featuring a head-nodding beat and playful melodies, the song finds the other half of the duo, Björn Peterson, contemplating true love in another dimension.

"Well, I don't care if I never get out of here / At least I know we had each other somewhere," he sings. It might be one of the first love songs written for a girl in another dimension.

The styles of Peterson and Rose's songs deviate enough to complement each other, rarely bleeding together. Staygold and the Ponyboys has flow, with a tone that is seldom at rest yet never frantic.

"Our process has a lot of back and forth," reads a press release describing the making of the EP. Peterson wrote the songs, which Rose recomposed before Peterson "put them all back together," the release explains.

The duo recorded the songs in an attic and created the drums, keys and bass using Ableton software and a Moog Grandmother, a semi-modular synthesizer. Peterson and Rose then sent the tracks of their proper DIY job to Jeremy Mendicino (Pretty & Nice, Matthew Mercury) for mastering.

The result is a sonically rich album capable of hushed beauty. Even when the mix opens up in intensity, the band's music maintains a sort of stately grace.

There are moments when the band's charm falters. Third track "Completely" pushes closer to adult contemporary in a way that the duo seems ill-equipped to handle. In isolation, the song might not come across as maudlin, but it's the only moment on the EP when the energy lags. "Completely" just doesn't have the same weight as "Dry Land," a waltz-like ballad that works in a more clever and less predictable fashion to achieve a similar feel.

"Pulling Teeth" wraps up the recording with country twang. A song about losing friends and loved ones over time, it encodes a surprisingly upbeat message about carrying on within its ringing guitars and easygoing beat.

"We have to say goodbye," Rose sings, "To loved ones who we let stray / And as those nerve endings fall away / It's gonna hurt, but it's ok."

Download Staygold and the Ponyboys at staygoldandtheponyboys.bandcamp.com