Album ReviewThe Dark Leaves★★★
Matt Pond PA, comfortable in the indie, singer/songwriter niche in which they are known to avid fans of "The O.C." as the artists behind the song "Champagne Supernova," reiterates that style in the April 13th release of The Dark Leaves.
Matt Pond PA began when its founder, Matt Pond, started a band with Philadelphia locals in the late '90s. Though the band members have changed since Pond's move to Brooklyn, Matt Pond PA has continually been releasing albums since 2007. Their new album, The Dark Leaves, was recorded in a Bearsville, N.Y. cabin and is as cohesive and tightly knit as past LPs.
The cohesiveness of the record is lacking initially. The songs begin to blend after a few listens to the point that only three out of the 10 songs are distinguishable from the rest, which become filler and do not stand on their own.
"Remains" relies heavily on percussion and loses a lot of the intonation found in earlier songs. The track holds some appeal for fans of Several Arrows Later and Last Light - two of the band's earlier, more scaled-up albums - since it isn't too much of a stretch outside of Pond's usual realm.
Another song separated from the mass, "Ruins" has a quick pace amid songs of slower tempo. Though Pond's melody in "Ruins" sounds extremely similar to Ace Ender's "Body Like Mine" (only meant for mature audiences), it lacks the power and electricity behind Ender's song. "Ruins" appears to be caught in between lo-fi and a harder alternative, and awkwardly so.
In fact, one of the major problems in this fight between breaking out and remaining the dreaded "easy-listening" genre is Matt Pond's voice. He struggles with high notes but continues to put them in his songs anyway. Even though he should be recognized as a great composer of compact indie songs, he probably won't be considered a great indie singer anytime soon.
That said, "Sparrows" works fairly well with Pond's struggle with volume and pitch as he is balanced with a country-style speed on guitar. He never quite gets to the crooning stage that he is looking for though, reaching to his post-baccalaureate audience that is yearning for a nice and depressing tune. "Sparrows" is one of the most appealing songs on the album, but Pond still doesn't quite attain the point he's trying to reach.
The Dark Leaves barely skates by being considered a downslide simply because it has a Matt Pond PA sound. Listeners will be able to keep it down, but not in large doses. Longtime fans may just have to hope that Pond changes his style enough to reinvigorate his name, but not enough to expel his characteristic feel.