Orville Peck Pony

Orville Peck Pony
7
There are two sides to Orville Peck, and he wears them both on his face. There's the yearning for the good ol' days of outlaws and the Wild West, as communicated through his cowboy hat, and then there's the queer subtext that bubbles throughout Pony, his debut LP, as seen in the flamboyant fringe that hangs below his mask. That his mask is equal parts Zorro and bondage hood only serves to further his duality.
 
All the tropes of classic country are there — dusty saloon iconography, shuffling percussion, literal bells and whistles, banjo twang — and are largely presented free of commentary. Tracks like "Roses Are Falling" and "Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)" are solid entries to the classic country canon of Glen Campbell and Loretta Lynn, while his impressive vocal range helps keep the album varied. His breathy croon drives erotic lovers' ballad "Big Sky," while his formidable belted falsetto elevates "Winds Change" beyond mere Smiths pastiche.
 
The record's most powerful moment, however, is also its least country. Standout "Buffalo Run" barrels out of the gate with surf rock drums and guitars into a full-on shoegaze sprint to the finish. It's exhilarating and urgent, and a potent reminder of the project's fullest potential.
 
There's an ever-crowded field of cowboys (of all genders) making their way through independent music these days, but Peck's striking imagery sets him apart. (Royal Mountain/Sub Pop)