Do Whatever You Want All the Time (We Are Free)
The individual members of Baltimore art-rock quartet Ponytail do some rather interesting things on Do Whatever You Want All the Time, their third studio album. But taken as a whole, the band's experimental, endlessly repetitive jams, bursting with childlike glee, often add up to very little. It's like the complete opposite of a pointillistic painting: from a distance, Ponytail's big picture—relentlessly energetic slabs of guitar counterpoint, huge prog-rock drum fills, and the free-spirited birdsong of vocalist Molly Siegel—almost seems vivid, but upon closer inspection, it just sounds like a bunch of pretty, and pretty pointless, dots, crammed together in an audible canvas not sturdy enough to hold together all the information.
Let's take a moment to assess the dots on their own merits. Guitarists Dustin Wong and Ken Seeno have pretty much mastered what they do—weaving overlapping, effects-drenched webs of melody that unravel in dizzying swirls. Drummer Jeremy Hyman is probably the band's MVP, his dense, propulsive playing always attempting to nudge the songs forward. These guys whip up a pretty unique racket: Caribbean math rock, or cruise-ship prog. The problem is that the songs don't go anywhere, content to simply repeat and repeat, straddling the line between hypnosis and straight-up boredom.
And Siegel's ridiculous vocals aren't doing the band any favors. At first, her perplexing style—a mixture of Mortal Kombat shouting and the shrieks of an overwhelmed 1940s newspaper boy—is cute, but it gets grating. Over the electric guitar shitstorm of "AwayWay," Siegel asks, in her most striking lyrical moment, "What? What?" It is, for better or worse, an excellent question. (Ryan Reed)