Pick of the Week: Khruangbin “Pon Pón”

An illustration of a window looking out onto a peachy sunset, with orange wall surrounding. Above, in large black text, reads: "Pon Pon by Khraungbin." A n;ue guitar pick logo in the bottom left reads "WERS 88.9 Pick of the Week"
Graphics by Sarah Tarlin

By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator

Khruangbin channeled “simplicity, naiveté and playfulness” on their new album A LA SALA, said bassist Laura Lee in an interview with Exclaim

The three person band that formed out of Austin, Texas has always captured a sort of simple magic: melodic guitar largely filling in for any vocals, plus groovy bass and drums transporting listeners along. But a noticeable progression — with their last solo album Mordechai (2020) featuring their most complex soundscapes to date — has purposefully, and refreshingly, been slashed via this new release. 

“Pon Pón” was the third and final track the band put out leading to A LA SALA’s full release this spring. Having been inspired by a childhood game Lee played growing up in Mexico, the track captures the band’s intentions most literally. Spiritually too, between the whispered lyrics and bouncing bass line. 



Khruangbin has previously shared that their musical process typically begins with a drumming pattern from the talented Donald “DJ” Johnson and a bassline from Laura Lee. These instruments, which are typically seen as ways to support singing or guitar melodies, are instead centered in the trio’s workflow. In “Pon Pón,” this is felt. The mostly subtle drumming acts as a heartbeat in the song, but DJ also knows when to come in and accentuate. If the drums are the heart, the bassline may be the lungs, breathing life into the song and truly making you want to put your dancing shoes on.

In the writing process, only when the bass and drum parts are done does guitarist Mark Speer begin to improvise different guitar lines atop. Laura Lee shared in an interview: “It can take hours for [Speer] to figure out what his part is going to be on the song, but his guitar brain is infinite. He’ll play all kinds of different things on top of the same bassline. You’re talking, he could have 50 songs for every song, and then he takes parts from each of the takes and makes this beautiful thing out of it.” 

When these three elements come together, the result feels easier to describe in feeling than in genre labels: warm, beachy, nostalgic, relaxed. 

In Khruangbin’s sonic universe, lyrics take a backseat,  “Pon Pón” no differently. “Take one, take two, take everything,” Lee chants in a whisper in Spanish for part of the song.  

And in the final minute of the track, Lee counts — to sixteen at first, then to twelve and to eight — in a jumble of languages. From Korean to Arabic, the multilingual lyrics are reminiscent of Khruangbin’s worldly influences and their power to appeal to anyone: groovy instrumentation is their universal language. 

Every Monday, our music staff brings you a new Pick of The Week, detailing some of our favorite songs. Check out our previous Picks of the Week here, and make sure to tune in to WERS 88.9FM!

Uncommon Newsletter

Music reviews, ticket giveaways, live performances & member specials.

Sign Up

We'll never sell your email, be boring or try to sell you on bad music.

in studio performances