As has become well documented on the site, Nashville’s pop rock/intelli-pop scene and its adjacent sub-genres has no shortage of fascinating story-lines.
For all intents and purposes, there wasn’t a scene (or at least a significantly burgeoning one) for the better part of fifteen, twenty years. There was Lambchop and Paper Route but outside of that, pursuing anything in the realm of nuanced intellipop was, in a word, unintelligent, at least to do so in Nashville.
Everyone made their way to New York or LA to carve out a niche among the many, while Nashville seemingly acted in spite of itself.
Considering the wealth of major-label production suites in town, one would think Nashville has long been a hotbed of indie-rock/intelli-pop for some time, rather than a “wow, there a lot of pop acts here!” reaction to the past five years. Even within that subset, it’s really the past three years where Nashville’s intelli-pop scene experienced true exponential growth.
Obviously, there are plenty of conception-defying gems within the Nashville indie rock meets intelli-pop world - LANY, COIN, and The Night Game (sort of) come to mind - and plenty others watching from the steps beside the balustrade, waiting to be invited into Nashville’s indie rock/intelli-pop debutante ball.
That’s not to say they’ve not earned recognition based off their own merit, but rather, awaiting the same credibility as those mentioned earlier. While some sit idly by in hopes of an invitation (see: opportunity), others are beginning to lay out a plan of ascension.
Let’s use PONCÉ as an example (how’s that for a segue!?).
It’s been documented enough to know that PONCÉ is the twin brother indie rock duo with a pop sheen, offering their take on the arena rock of yore if Petty and Springsteen had time-traveled to the modern day and stole Ableton, Logic, and as many recent model Moog modulars as possible.
That’s totally fair, but in keeping with the Nashville theme, what I think is worth noting about the sibling duo is the distinctive harmony work Michael and Carson bring about in PONCÉ. Think of them as the pop rock answer to Ira and Charlie Louvin’s famed blood harmonies. That’s not their only strength, but for the sake of (relative) brevity, that’s our focus today.
Obviously, blood harmonies have long been fetishized by many a music writer, so the ability to bring them about has been a little overblown, but when you hear it, you hear it. And PONCÉ has solid handle on a pop rock version of blood harmony.
In their latest single, “Around You,” PONCÉ offer a plethora of striking sonic moments, but the harmonies caught the ear first and foremost. While the song is not necessarily a duet in the classic styling of the Louvin Brothers, The Jackson Five, or other blood harmony toting duos, it does hold reminiscent moments.
Point and case, throughout the second verse, while Carson takes lead, Michael will pop in and out on melodic inflection points to bolster the tune as a whole. In my mind, that’s what sells the hook “the way that I feel when I’m around you.” Granted, I’m not saying the song doesn’t do so in other areas, but the melody lines are power pop to the max. Add that to the fact there’s an absolutely incredible key change near the end of the song, you’ve got yourself a road show ready anthem.
As for the song itself, it possesses an innumerable array of other striking moments, from the slightly whimsical production quality to general artistic direction. To say the least, there’s a lot to ruminate over.
So with all that, let’s bring things back around to our original point - PONCÉ are yet another sensational component of the ever-burgeoning pop scene in Nashville.
They’re unique in their standing, seeing as it’s not just pop when it comes to PONCÉ; their arena rock influence rings true, too. PONCÉ is a familiar combination that shatters general conceptions - a pop rock duo with blood harmonies? If there was ever a band more primed to make waves in Nashville right now, it’s got to PONCÉ.