Pony Up!

Make Love to the Judges with Your Eyes

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There's something sort of creepy about Laura Willis' childish, vibrato-free timbre on the first track of Make Love to the Judges with Your Eyes as she wistfully sings "Dance for me/I like to watch" as if it were "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" -- but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Delivering an overtly sexual theme with a deliberate air of innocence may seem a little strange, but that noticeable disparity seems to be the point. Pony Up! takes a distinctly twee approach to its overall sound on this record, right down to the liner notes -- handwritten in pencil in perfect fifth-grade cursive -- but the content is adult in nature. Some songs on the album tell of heartbreak and grief, while others admit to reveling in interpersonal power struggles. Willis and co-lead vocalist Sarah Moundroukas don't employ their stylistic naïveté for lack of any other vocal ability, as they each stray briefly into more cathartic approaches when musical tension builds, particularly during Moundroukas' performance on "Lines Bleed." Their guileless manner of singing is a conscious choice, and it gives a sense of unabashedness to songs that mere words and melody would not establish. This makes for a high quality musical experience, yet the unworldly technique is also very limiting. Upon repeated listens, the style begins to show through as an affectation, contradicting the sense of candor it was meant to evoke.

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