New Young Pony Club

The Optimist

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By the time New Young Pony Club’s second album, The Optimist, finally hit retailers in 2010, some pretty drastic changes had occurred. The band was no longer with Modular Records, it was basically down to a duo of vocalist Tahita Bulmer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Spence (though drummer Sarah Jones and keyboardist Lou Hayter do make cameo appearances), and most importantly, the adolescent swagger and goofiness of early songs like "Ice Cream" and "Jerk Me" had been replaced with a more subdued and adult feel. There is still plenty of spunk and snarl in Bulmer’s vocals, lots of angular funk in the rhythms, and more than enough hooks to go around, only this time there is a slick, studio-generated sheen on top of everything. Instead of the ESG influence that permeated Fantastic Playroom, perhaps a better reference this time would be Altered Images. And while they still channel Gang of Four at times, it’s more like late-period Gang of Four. This kind of retrenchment quite often spells doom for a band, with a tragically blanding out of its sound, removing the vital heart and inspiration that made it worth listening to in the first place. While a few NYPC fans who really loved "Ice Cream" might find The Optimist too smooth and a little studied at times, most people who hear the record will be won over by the high quality of the songs, Bulmer’s still captivating persona, and the tracks that have some of Fantastic Playroom’s dancefloor drive (like “We Want To” and “Chaos”) and sass (“Lost a Girl”). NYPC's surprisingly light touch on the couple of ballads (“Stone,” “Architect of Love”) they drop in the mix is also a strong selling point, and shows a level of depth that was missing in the past. It might have been nice if some of the wobbly giddiness of their previous work had transferred over to The Optimist, but it’s clear that the band is a different entity now, with a slightly darker outlook on life. They could have totally botched the transition from happy party kids to grownups; instead, they managed the switch quite masterfully. The Optimist won’t make anyone forget Fantastic Playroom, but it does work as a nice complement and shows that the group may have some staying power.

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