There used to be this great band called Ponytail
, but not anymore. They broke up in 2011 via a message
from their manager, Sir James Winnie (terrific), which closed with the line, “Hopefully more bands will come along like Ponytail and shed light on the fakers. Much love to the future."
Well, Sir James, we’re in the future now, and sorry to say, the fakers are doing just fine. Ponytail is still dead, but the band is on this thing called Spotify, which allows fans to stream the catalog on-demand while earning literal pennies for the band. I’m doing it right now, sorry.
Hearing Ponytail in 2016 is, for me, one of those “time and place” experiences, the time being the mid-to-late 2000s, and the place being New York in the summer when I was home from school. Maybe it’s a personal bias — I was in my early 20s, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as hell. Whatever it is about music and puberty and drinking and weed that makes people that age feel so much everything, I felt it. Bands like Pterodactyl, No Age, Abe Vigoda, The Mae Shi, Dan Deacon, High Places and Ponytail opened my eyes like an eyelid on an eyeball (the standard way), and I found myself responding in earnest to new music with phrases like, “Holy shit what is
this?” and “I didn’t know you were allowed to do this” and “wowee.”
Ponytail, in particular. A band as adventurous as Dirty Projectors, but the music was better. The group was fearless like Deerhoof, but more fun. Ponytail was unhinged like a shitty door, but the songs had substance and structure. And a big part of that structure/substance was thanks to the guitar work of Dustin Wong.
He was the sandbag to the band’s hot-air balloon, assuming I understand how sandbags in hot-air balloons work.
Wong’s guitar-playing is precise and clean. Words like “virtuoso” and “genius” have probably been kicked around with his name in the past, but no good can come from that. Let’s just say he’s a talented guitar player whose style has a distinct perspective. He’s got great hands, spider-leggy fingers. Every note he plays has its own room, no clutter, no mud.
Precision can be grating in guitar-playing, skill for skill’s sake, like being a shitty writer but an excellent typist. Dustin Wong actually does something with all that skill; the precision and clarity has nothing to do with competence — it’s actually saying something.
His 2012 album, Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads
, is a 16-song instrumental (mostly guitar) experiment that sounds like it was written as it was being recorded. Songs start with simple, almost cute guitar lines or phrases. Each lap around the riff, another joins in. Guitar pedals play a big role but not too big. The compositions are ornate, a word I never use correctly but have nailed on the head here. Rhythmically, the album is simple, often nothing more than a tick-tock metronomic kick and snare. But all that simplicity, all that precision, all those details so unassuming on their own, add up to something complete and confident and just-the-right-size for its britches.
This is an album to play straight through (takes about an hour), but if you’re looking for a best foot forward, I’d check out “On/In The Way.” That’s my favorite, at least. Like everything on DSVCSL
, “On/In The Way” is nothing special in terms of its opening riff. That’s because the riffs on the album are cumulative — it takes a village. The solo guitar lines are throwaway phrases, like something you might play half-asleep watching TV. But added together like a rolling snowball as they are here, something intricate and exciting happens. The whole album succeeds like this.
So … the reason we’re here: DSVCSL
is about as obvious a great work-album as there is. It’s optimistic, not too forward, and by its accumulative structure, it’s essentially a soundtrack for getting things done. Despite its consistency in tone and melody, the thing has movement. Songs thread seamlessly, then crash without much of an ending into the next track. It’ll keep your attention without asking for too much of it, which I’m pretty sure is what this whole blog is about.
Anyway, hope you enjoy. Also, Dustin Wong has a shitload of music like (and not like) this; I just really like this one. Also, check out Ponytail. Also, if you have any thoughts on this whatsoever, or want to recommend music to work to, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best if you work in:
construction, Lego design, quilts