On the band’s sophomore album, PONY deliver some great-sounding power pop on Velveteen. Named after the book The Velveteen Rabbit, that lead singer Sam Bielanski used the audiobook from to cope with a nine-month struggle with insomnia, Bielanski shared, “I became obsessed with it, but I always fell asleep before getting to the end. The way I interpreted the story was that it’s the love that we give and receive that makes us real or whole.” Through this unique connection to a childhood favorite, Bielanski and multi-instrumentlist/collaborator Matty Morand were able to pen approximately 200 songs that they narrowed down to ten crisp songs found on this record. If you’re into bands like Beach Bunny, Soccer Mommy, and Diet Cig, you’ll definitely find plenty to enjoy on PONY’s Velveteen.

Starting things off on the right foot with the electric “Tres Jolie,” Bielanski’s sugary sweet vocal delivery sets the tone for the rest of the LP. The single features some great guitar work from the two musicians, paired with a pulsating bass line that further accentuate each of the lyrics. On the chorus, Bielanski sings “I want to kiss you / I want to make you mine,” in a manner that makes the listener feel right at home and connected with the artist. “Peach” follows the great opener, and showcases the growth PONY have shown since their debut (2021’s TV Baby). Adding some flavor and swagger to their sound on the raucous song “Sick,” this band rocks along with purpose over a frenetic beat.

The middle section of the record features some different-sounding tracks, including the vivid storytelling of “Sucker Punch,” the fuzzy guitar groove of “Haunted House,” and the pop bliss of “Who’s Calling?” The album never loses its early momentum gained, and instead paints with wide, colorful strokes on ingenuity in their power-pop sound. What PONY does best on these particular songs is to experiment with different song structures and tempos to make each of the tracks feel truly unique. This restraint is not usually seen this early on in an artist’s career, and it’s a marvel to see it unfold.

Other late standouts, like “French Class,” showcase PONY’s personality with a cool, 80’s new wave-esque song that sounds like a combination of the dream pop of Beach House paired with the synth-pop perfection of Tears For Fears. “Sunny Rose” starts off with some crunchy guitar riffs over Bielanski’s soothing vocals that only help to fully balance out the song. All of this leads up to the album closer, “Haircut,” that finds the band taking their life all in stride and features some great lyrical wordplay in the chorus that has a plethora of hooks that lures the listener further into the world the band has created.

While some newcomers to PONY may find their sound too similar to the artists that they are influenced by, I’d invite audiences to take more spins of Velveteen before making any snap judgements on whether or not this band belongs with the heavy-hitters in the genre. There’s so much to love and enjoy on this record that is perfectly timed for the beginning of Summer, and I’m extremely glad to have discovered this talented artist that will certainly be in my music rotation for the foreseeable future.