Friday, August 5, 2011

Nathan Ponzar-Undiagnosis



     Nathan Ponzar is a singer-songwriter who last I saw him was still based out of St. Charles, MO. Yea he (was/)is a friend of mine but is prone to be reclusive and I haven't been in touch with him for about a couple years really. I saw Ponzar play the St. Charles coffeeshop circuit and before I lost touch with him, he was starting to get enamored with the Lemp Arts center. He has one album that I know of, and a few demos on bandcamp called 'Rehearsals In the Purple Room'. You can check them both out at nathanponzar.bandcamp.com. I had sort of forgotten about him and his music, when within the past month I pulled out my old copy of 'Undiagnosis' and once again became enamored with it.
Ponzar is a pretty consistent blend of a few classic down-tempo singer-songwriters such as Neil Young, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake and a heavy dose of Sun Kil Moon.  The sound rarely varies far from this reportoire and the music is mostly comprised of acoustic guitar with some electric guitar, drum flourishes and backing vocals. The musicality of what he does is satisfying, yet it isn't the main thing that is interesting about what Ponzar does. Granted, his melodies do often hit that certain sweet spot, his guitar playing when acoustic is pleasant and consistent and when electric can be quite catchy and punchy. What stands out most about Ponzar's stuff the most is his voice as a songwriter, his phrasing and the well-played usage of cadence, placement, and emotion lyrically and with the tone of his voice to get his point across. Ponzar's songwriting tends to focus on two themes that are dear to my heart as a fellow artist and kindred spirit: illness and golden moments in time. The contrast between these two themes works wonderfully and could resonate with even the most jaded of hearts. Without getting too explicit Ponzar indicates battles with the effects of both physical and mental illness, but in a musical confessional way. The first words of the album hint at surgery : 'it's been three days since they cut me/in the hospital bed". However, while the physicality of what Ponzar has gone through informs the album in a mysterious yet blunt way, it is his struggles with the mental side of health that inform his most biting and satirical moments: 'the rich man said that it's all in your head/ sends you to a man who gives you prozac/what an easy way for you to get paid at the door..." he says on Four Hour Smile, a fascinating track which takes the two major aforementioned themes of illness and bright moments. Does the threat of impending side effects put a damper on or enhance the bright smiling moments we all experience? the song seems to be asking.
     The other appealing aspect of Ponzar's music that for me transcends the ghostly chuminess of listening to a work of art an old friend has created is the honesty of his project. I don't doubt that a lot of people who play independent music (or do indie art for that matter) have good intentions, yet so often does it all seem reduced to posturing. The bleak honesty of what Ponzar offers cuts right through all that, as he says on Paxil Scene 'here I am once again/with a pad and a pen/ writing things down/ that I honestly mean in the deepest way'. How refreshing it is to get back to the core of why we feel compelled to write things in the first place!
     Overall, I have no idea what Ponzar's up to nowadays, much less can I predict if he'll get his due and even a small appreciative audience. However, I remember he possesses a sincerity and resolve necessary for such a struggle. I have no idea if I'll ever talk to the dude again much less if he'll read this obscure review, but I wish him the best of luck regardless even if all I can do is blog about it in internet land...

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