August is the Sunday evening of summer months: an uneasy time to look back on the season you spent so much time looking forward to, the anticipation now replaced with dread at what comes next (shout out to everyone with SAD). There are songs and albums I return to every year to try and squeeze out a last little bit of summer amidst all the winding down, whether because the songs capture that feeling or because they hit me with the gut punch memory of Augusts gone by. Sometimes, however, there are songs that drop right as summer wanes that shake us from the nostalgia dream and remind us that the sun’s still shining.
On Friday, PONY announced a deal with Take This to Heart Records. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Toronto-based quartet released a new single and music video named for every hypochondriac’s most visited website. “WebMD” is a tight 2 minutes and change of grunge-laced power pop. The driving bass and drums that open the song remain a constant force, making plenty of room for frontperson Sam Bielanski’s insight into the complicated freedom of loneliness. Lyrics like “I put on another scary movie/If I’m alone then there’s no one who can use me” and the powerful “I don’t want to need anyone” highlight the tension between self-determination and self-destruction at the heart of the track. The cover art points to this tension as well: Bielanski’s head wrapped in plastic will evoke Laura Palmer’s unfortunate demise for Twin Peaks fans. As the second chorus ends, the song sounds like it might gear up into a bridge only to stop short and leave listeners grasping for more. Luckily, PONY has quite a bit of previously released music online to explore, and certainly more due out soon on Take This to Heart.
The video concept is a simple reflection of the lyrics: it cycles through close up shots of Bielanski alone in a house singing, hemmed in by flowers and pastels, blues and pinks. It never becomes clear whether her gaze falls on us or something else just out of frame, and in some shots her eyes seem completely unfocused. As the scenes change, she cycles through moods, from screaming into the camera and headbanging to dejectedly practicing dance moves. Impossible to get a clean read on her emotions, it all adds up to claustrophobia, making a point about the way independence can feel suffocating as it can feel freeing. As the final chords ring out, we’re left with a cat who appears to yawn at the human drama of the song before fading into the unnaturally pink-lit floral background.
Charly Bliss is a clear reference point for PONY, though personally “WebMD” reminds me of hours spent in my dorm room with Cherry Glazerr’s Haxel Princess and Colleen Green’s I Want to Grow Up in 2015. It’s a lineage that PONY fits into without sounding tired or repetitive; they perfectly occupy that overlap between sugar-coated pop and angsty 90s grunge to produce absolute earworms that stick in your cranium long after the track ends.
If you like this song as much as I do, you can find PONY’s music on BandCamp and Spotify, and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates. Thanks to Greydon Sims for the picture at the top of the article!