Review Summary: Deeper & darker than its predecessor, The Optimist is an instinctive step up for NYPC.
With seemingly every Gen X musician and their slutty teenage daughter joining the electro craze of late, it is almost refreshing to see a band take one step off the bandwagon. That is not to say that English quartet New Young Pony Club (NYPC) has completely abandoned the electronic tendencies showcased on their debut LP ‘Fantastic Playroom’, it is just that follow-up ‘The Optimist’ predominantly ditches the slick nu-rave meets disco sound, and opts for a decidedly darker vibe that has developed naturally.
Early indications strongly suggest that this is a step in the right direction, since fantastic opener ‘Lost A Girl’ near-perfectly combines the bands love of synths with more pronounced live instrumentation. The rhythm section truly shines here, while Tahita Bulmer’s usual deadpan delivery of the relationship confused lyrics adds a suitably nervous energy, to make it excitingly come together as arguably NYPC’s best song yet. Lead single ‘Chaos’ then continues the momentum by adding an infectious element via handclaps and a sing-along chorus, while ‘Dolls’ later revisits the upbeat 1980’s inspired pop of their debut, especially with the addictive keys hook following its one-line chorus.
For the most part however, ‘The Optimist’ displays a deeper and darker edge. On closer ‘Architect of Love’, Bulmer proclaims “This was broken from the start, the blueprint had no art”. This is likely to be in reference to the reported break-up of her multi-year relationship, but could also allude to a perceived superficiality of their previous sound. Intricately layered harmonies weave through the title track and ‘Rapture’, while even the accessible and catchy ‘We Want To’, is essentially a low-ended bass-driven piece. The song-writing has improved second time around, but practically all tracks bar electro-ballad ‘Stone’ are still pop songs at heart. It is therefore a shame that NYPC take the brooding and contemplative nature of some tracks too far, resulting in the likes of ‘Before The Light’ and ‘Oh Cherie’ (both of which stretch out past five minutes) crossing the line into drab and dreary territory, since they feel far too restrained and lack any sense of fun.
Moving against the current trend, New Young Pony Club has been both bold and defiant with the direction they have taken on ‘The Optimist’. Self-produced (by Bulmer & guitarist Andy Spence) and independently released on the band’s own label (The Numbers), it is an album which is unlikely to be as embraced, and make the same impact, as their debut. However, while it is still caught a little in-between moods and is clearly front-loaded, ‘The Optimist’ feels more instinctive than ‘Fantastic Playroom’, and is ultimately a step up because of that.
Recommended Tracks: Lost A Girl, Chaos, We Want To & The Optimist.