If you select your music by genre, this album might not be for you. Lake Street Dive doesn’t commit to just one genre but instead bounces happily from soul (think Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse or Gladys Knight, complete with coordinated Pips dance routines) to country and western (a la Patsy Cline) to Dick Dale-style surf rock to disco to 70s pop (you can almost hear Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon in the chorus).
The album title and cover art for “Side Pony” conjure images of Deb from the movie “Napoleon Dynamite,” and bassist Bridget Kearney explains how the title of track eight came to be the album title, saying, “When we were settling on the album title, that one just stuck out to us as embodying the band’s spirit. We’ve always been this somewhat uncategorizable, weird, outlying, genre-less band. That’s the statement we wanted to make with this record: be yourself.” We are the beneficiaries of their choice.
This extremely talented quartet displays the breadth of their skills on this album, with a broad array of musical instruments, clever lyrics and the powerful vocals of Rachael Price. Loosely, the theme of relationships could be considered the thread that pulls their skills together on “Side Pony.” Don’t come looking for gooey, bae (“before anyone else”) lyrics, though; these songs cover every other stage of relationships, from before they’ve begun to while they’re going wrong to “we are never, ever, ever getting back together.”
Why might you like this album? Simply put, so many of the tracks have an earworm quality, catchy and dance-y. They’re roll-down-your-windows and sing-out-loud kind of songs. Track 7, “How Good It Feels,” begins singing the virtues of being alone and moves to a close with: And how good it feels to have somebody to make conversation with … How good it feels to have you.
The title track, “Side Pony,” or “side pone-ay” as it is sung, is exaggerated and silly, which lends to its charm, with the chorus: Because I rock a side pony, Baby I’m just living my life.
If those lyrics and melodies don’t do a joyful dance in your head, track 11, “Can’t Stop,” will show you no mercy with its repeated refrain of “I can’t stop your love” and its Donna Summer groove.
Though this album wouldn’t be considered a Christian album per se, it is peppered with the language of faith, as in “Godawful Things”: Let me roll the stone away, Through you I’m saved.
There are also themes that could easily be translated into faith, like those found in the same “Can’t Stop” and “Close to Me.”
“Close to Me,” a song about not getting involved with someone for fear of hurting them, closes with the lyric: Maybe I’ll call you when I’m fully grown, Until that day comes I recommend that you don’t get too close to me.
With my sermon material antenna up, I hear someone who thinks they are not good enough to be loved by God and the opportunity to bring in Moses, David and all the other very human cast of characters who worked for God’s good, despite their own weaknesses.
“Can’t Stop” makes a perfect counter to the pushing-away in “Close to Me”: Cuz I can’t stop your love … No giving it up … Infinite and wide.
All in all, the album is a lot of fun to listen to and may even give you something for youth group, sermon or Bible study.
NICOLE FARLEY serves as pastor to a church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, lives in Gurnee, Illinois, and has a son at college in Columbia, Missouri. At home – and especially when she and her husband are driving between all those places – music is always on in the background. She has gained an appreciation for well-crafted lyrics from her English major husband’s musical preferences, to complement her preference for most any song that refers to dancing. And she is likely the person you saw seat dancing in her car. She does not, however, rock a side pony.