With her debut EP, Allison Ponthier has brought us further into her world, highlighting her anxieties and insecurities as she rises from the ashes a final time
“Tornado Country follows me / Everywhere I go, it’s gonna be a part of me”, sings Texas-born Allison Ponthier on the last track of her debut EP, Faking My Own Death. As mundane as the underlying sentiment might seem, the realization that you can’t shake off where you come from was a revelation for the twenty-five-year-old. “It took New York to make me a cowboy”, she admits on opener “Cowboy”. Paradoxically, all it took was for Ponthier to be far from home to piece the shards of herself into one cohesive whole–and to find that small-town life in the South affected her a lot more than she suspected.
It seems like Ponthier is finally ready to stop running from herself. She’s determined to put an end to the cycles of destruction-reinvention that have characterized her personal trajectory up until now–best exemplified in the title track and its opening verse (“The only promise I can make is I’m changing all my plans / And you’ll never see me again”). Despite a pattern of burning bridges, shedding skin and repeating history, as she utters the words “I’m rising from the ashes” for the last time, we’re immediately willing to believe it’s the last time she’ll have to do so.
“Faking My Own Death” is a captivating track filled with minute twists and turns that shine a spotlight on Ponthier’s crystalline vocals. The backing instrumentation seems only to exist to highlight the text. It’s also the case on “Harshest Critic”, a song that radiates the soft glow of the motel bedside table of an artist about to take the stage for the first time. Subtly enhanced by backing vocals, the track cradles the confession of the crippling fear that comes with the territory of a burgeoning career. “What if all my fears were on display?”, wonders Allison, before admitting later, “I’m terrifed / Of the way I look when it’s through strangers’ eyes”. The self-consciousness sounds all the more relatable for an artist who’s making her first strides without the immediate comforts of live performance and meeting her supporters.
Another lighter-in-the-air moment comes packaged in “Hell Is A Crowded Room”, an anxiety-ridden cut that questions whether the highs are worth the lows. The muted composition mirrors the intimacy of its lyrics but the pay-offs are minimal this time around. Similarly, the guitar-led “Paid For” isn’t an immediate wowzer, leaving the listener in limbo after a relatively uneventful three-minute run.
Ponthier’s storytelling is best appreciated through a cinematic lens. Campy visuals accompany the EP’s singles and the music itself conjures up pictures at times. “Cowboy”’s composition reflects the lyrical synesthesia, opposing a beige upbringing with the colours of a newfound comfort in the self and the assurance to come out as queer. The outro melody is almost lovelorn, toying with the idea of falling in love with yourself and having to work to reciprocate that affection.
This innate romanticism is not only picked up by several other tracks across the EP, it’s also the main attraction of “Tornado Country”, a love letter to Ponthier’s roots. The bright country-tinged song’s abrupt ending resembles a comma more than it does a full stop. We’re eager to hear the end of that sentence.