Review Summary: As thought provoking as it is beautiful, Matt Pond PA has recorded one of 2010's greatest surprises.
After months of helpless struggle, misery, and even hibernation from the long and dreaded season, winter has passed. This has only happened to make way for spring; the nighttime bonfires, cigars, those short shorts you love to glimpse at so much, and Matt Pond PA. That’s right, Matt Pond PA. One can only assume by the awful band name, that the group can join the likes of Frightened Rabbit, mewithoutYou, and Death Cab for Cutie as an acclaimed indie band with a ridiculous title. What is overbearingly shocking about Matt Pond PA however, is that they have existed for over a decade now, releasing eight full-length releases and three EP’s in that span. This current indie pop quintet has survived a plethora of lineup changes, leaving singer/songwriter Matt Pond as the only remaining founder of the band. The current lineup facilitates the quintet’s sound to be innovative to say the least, fusing elements of folk, pop, and even country which results in a warm and alluring ambience.
There is something unequivocally gorgeous about Matt Pond PA’s “The Dark Leaves,” whether it is the presence of violins, Pond’s subtle vocals, or the floating sensation that the music so intricately bestows. If “The Dark Leaves” confers anything in the initial listen, it is that the record is ***king relaxing. Listening to the album, it is as if your apartment was replaced by an endless deserted beach, topped off with a sunset and only the music perceptible. As ridiculous as that sounds, “The Dark Leaves” is one of those releases that seem to rid you of all problems, if only slightly. Its utilization of sweeping instrumentation not only emotes the technical beauty of the album, but is the source of its inner ardor.
What is intriguing about “The Dark Leaves” is that it was recorded in Bearville, New York, which is located just a few miles west of Woodstock (yes the
Woodstock). As a resident of New York, I happen to know for a fact that the particular area is extremely rural and deserted, creating a situation akin to “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Analogous with the aforementioned album, “The Dark Leaves” exemplifies its recording location with tremendous precision. From Pond’s utterances of “We can start tonight” in the album’s opener, this complete and reflective ambience is apparent, and does not wither until First Song
’s bass fades. Even with this atmosphere in place, “The Dark Leaves” doesn’t cease to provide a great deal of pop-appeal, emphasized perfectly through chilling harmonies, surefire synth, hand claps, and soaring instrumentation. This infectious environment is not lost upon Remains
, in which we hear Pond’s delicate vocals ascend amongst the crashing wall of sound.
“It's just a dark cabin in the woods in Bearsville. It's not absolutely isolated — you can see another house from it, a couple other houses. You feel isolated. You're surrounded by wild turkeys and deer and bears, they're coming out soon — or waking up soon. And coyotes. It's like an altered states thing, your senses slowly become deprived. It really pulls out a lot of music, at least for me.
Matt Pond PA’s eighth full-length release maintains a consistent and seemingly flawless flow from track to track, never interrupting your consumption in thought. Each piece appears to have some sort of a thought provoking mechanism, whether it is the spacey and Pink Floyd-esque Winter Fawn, or the haunting violin-laden First Song
. Contrary to what you may believe, the record does not climax with the so relevantly titled The Dark Leaves Theme
, but the closer. First Song
features the album’s greatest instrumentation in just a two and a half minute awe-inspiring spurt; with perfectly melodic acoustic guitars, so aptly fitting orchestration, and magnificent harmonies. The concluding piece is not only successful in doing the entire record justice, but also provides a tremendous seque to well, do it all over again.
Matt Pond PA’s 2010 release “The Dark Leaves” could very well be one of the most shocking choices for your end of year lists, but in actuality the band has been one of music’s best kept secrets. The innovative indie pop group has truly developed something spectacular here; mastering their fusion of music genres and depiction of scenery. This could perhaps be the album that elevates the band from unknown territory to an underground phenomenon, but this still remains to be seen. For now, there is an incredible album to listen to.