Ponder // 1st Degree
Nashville-based solo act Ponder's sophomore EP 1st Degree is a stripped down, confessional journey that is simultaneously cathartic and melancholy, like standing in the cool sea air at the end of a perfect day at the beach, knowing you have to go back to real life and leave behind this idyllic moment in time.
1st Degree is filled with surprising melodic turns and refreshing lyrics. Particularly evident in the second track, "I Asked the Sun Baby for Advice," singer/guitarist/lyricist Joseph Barnum isn't afraid to stray from more traditional chorus structures, and the pay-off is an organic, original song in a somewhat cluttered acoustic emo scene. Barnum's voice -- raw and clear, but with a slight rasp -- is the true strength of the EP, infusing each track with undeniable pathos that never becomes over the top or self-indulgent.
The lyrics are often biting and specific in a way that demands attention, which is apparent from the first lines of the EP, when Barnum sings, "It's been days since you went missing / but not in the sense of your face on a milk carton / more like giving the finger and saying you never cared." This tone continues throughout the tracks, but never becomes predictable, right through to the lyrical close of the EP, where the listener hears,"And I still need you to get me through this year / ten seconds away and it's finally here / it was another year wasted / another New Year no bliss / maybe next year brings change / but indeed I digress again..."
1st Degree is a solid offering from Ponder, one that drums up anticipation for a full-length album. With any luck, Barnum will be able to continue spinning authentic lyrics with an acoustic sound, but be able to push the boundaries with more melodic variety from song to song.