10 Feb 2024

Review: Pony Baby by Pony Baby

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 10 February 2024
Pony Baby

Pony Baby Photo: Photo by @pannybel

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Sometimes collaborations are as much about time and place as they are creative chemistry, the result of giving things a go and hoping they stick. Such is the case with a partnership between two Tāmaki Makaurau artists, each of them showing new creative colours, while staying true to themselves.

In 2022, Jazmine Mary won the Taite Music Prize Best Independent Debut, for their album The Licking of a Tangerine. They followed it up with one called Dog, and now this partnership, called Pony Baby. There’s an animal theme, but it’s best not to overthink it.

They're joined by Arahi, a performer who made the Top 20 finalists in the 2023 Silver Scrolls, for his song ‘My Baby’s Like a Hurricane’. He recently launched a rock trio called Te Tokotoru.

Both these artists had plenty going on already, but during their time as flatmates, had a go at writing some songs, with the result being this self-titled album.

"I Think I’m Falling In Love With You" is the sort of back-to-basics lyric that perhaps speaks to music created off the cuff. The duo’s solo work is more thought-out and sometimes lateral, but here they follow their whims with a sort of creative purity.

In the first song, the eponymous ‘Pony Baby’, Mary sings “I had a dream my house was filled with water”, which could be a reference to the Auckland floods of 2023, but generally the lines here are less mysterious, and more in keeping with the genre they’re working within: folk with strong hints of country, complete with welcome incursions of banjo.

Arahi and Mary aren’t the most likely collaborators, but like the songwriting, their singing voices meld together better than you might think. His rich, breathy tone wraps around their more reedy delivery, with the pair sometimes switching who takes the high or low part. On songs like ‘Angel’s Revenge’, Mary will drop into their speaking voice.

‘Knowin’ seems to be the pair’s take on a breakup song, tweaking heartstrings with lines like “I wish for nothing at all”, before embarking on some adventurous harmonies.  

Listening to Pony Baby, I’m most taken by how spontaneous and unfussy the songs feel. It’s often thematically serious, but the friendship between Jazmine Mary and Arahi somehow shines through, and makes it all feel buoyant rather than stern. 

They're also just great songwriters, and while working within a self-imposed genre, their respective voices ring out loud and clear.