Published Feb 19, 2016For their first release on Nonesuch Records, Boston-born, Brooklyn-based four-piece Lake Street Dive recorded an album that sounds the opposite of dive-y. Side Pony is optimistic and upbeat without being saccharine, sounding like a party scene on '70s Sesame Street, a scene in which Stevie Wonder, Carly Simon and Smokey Robinson sing an anthem about being true to yourself while surrounded by ethnically diverse preschoolers. The title track, all about rocking the dorky hairdo with confidence, is so adorable it demands a chorus of dancing Muppets.
The band's instrumental sound is practiced and polished, in a way that reminds one of the great session musicians of the '60s and '70s. They're all conservatory-educated, ex-jazz students, and it shows. Singer Rachael Price has a deceptively understated style, big-voiced and firmly on pitch, with very spare use of flourish, while bassist Bridget Kearney plays like she's going to make the shyest wallflower shake it.
Side Pony may not appeal to those who prefer their funk on the down-and-dirty side. This is squeaky clean, PG-rated soul, and that's not an insult, 'cause they do it so well. (Nonesuch)