We’re in a time where pictures can be edited with a plethora of different filters to hide a blemish, group photos are taken with almost a mathematical accuracy angle on it (for maximum attraction, of course), and it’s possible to swap faces with your friends. Usually it doesn’t turn out very well, and for good reasons. The title track from Lake Street Dive’s latest release, “Side Pony,” has come out at a critical time for society — a time where those who celebrate their quirks and imperfections could use the support, instead of the selfie-bash. And “Side Pony” is chock-full of perfect captions for those photos on social media.
Watch: “Side Pony” – Lake Street Dive
First and foremost, the lyrics take the cheese, and it’s easy to see why the title of the album goes by the same name as this track. Set your needle in the groove, and barely 12 seconds will go by before lead singer Rachael Price bellows out the first score of self-love supporting words to those that like to be a little different — in this case, wearing ponytails on the side of their head instead of in the center, “Against everything square and unsightly/Yes I know I look good, so don’t fight me/All I need is a clip or a scrunchie/And then I’m ready.” Supporting the fact that someone doesn’t need to get all made up to go out, and just needs a simple hairpiece in order to feel good about themselves is something that isn’t talked about enough — why spend all that time burning your hair to split ends, painfully plucking your eyebrows to symmetrical perfection, or cake the eyeshadow onto your sensitive eyelids? Rock the clip and scrunchie, and throw the collection of hair onto one side. Like “a parrot of hair” on your shoulder. After all, “it’s apparent it’s there, and it’s bolder.”
The chorus echoes this theme — “I rock a side pony/Who doesn’t love a side pony?/Baby I’m just living my life/Because I rock a side pony.” Although these lines are repeated multiple times throughout the song, the carousel-esque instrumentation keeps it interesting. Price doesn’t stick with the same range of vocals that is reminiscent of most pop songs, and the backing instrumentation livens the tune up the more the chorus is repeated. These kind of tricks can also come in handy at live shows: when the audience can more easily pick up on the lyrics, by the end of the song, the whole crowd is able to sing along. It’s safe to assume that this could be part of their bag of tricks for the live shows – at least, that’s how it sounded in a recent conversation with David Dye on the World Cafe.
Verse two is nothing to gloss over, either. Mike “McDuck” Olson (the composer of the song, and also the guitarist for the band) plays more with the “pony” aspect of the title; “Since I met you, you’ve been in my stable/And I see you whenever I’m able” and “We can’t hide it away in your derby/We’re having fun and we’re keeping it flirty/Everybody might say that it’s dirty/But don’t you worry.” Incorporating not only the subtle pony puns, but insinuating that the person who’s rocking their side pony is still able to find companionship without changing who they are, also supports the idea of self-love and appreciating who you are — and that’s what the song is all about.
Another interesting aspect of the song is where it falls in the listing for the record. Nestled in on the eighth track, falling between “How Good It Feels” and “Hell Yeah,” two songs that also touch on relationships but in completely different aspects, “Side Pony” breaks the ice in saying it’s fun to be a little different, and offers more of a jam-able quality to Side B. Also interesting, since the title track on the second-most recent record, “Bad Self Portraits,” was up front and center on Side A, track one.
“Side Pony” encapsulates everything that is Lake Street Dive. Witty lyrics, fun instrumentation that’ll stay in your head (but not in an annoying way), and a certain difficulty to classify when the “genre” question is asked. You could almost say that Lake Street Dive rocks their own side pony when it comes to music — and that’s why you won’t find them metaphorically face-swapping on Snapchat with another band’s identity. It’ll look funky, and it just won’t fit.