The latest matt pond PA record, “The Dark Leaves” begins with a song called “Starting” which sounds like it’s been caught off guard, right in the middle of a very sensuous situation and ends with “First Song” which sounds like a very well polished beginning to a bright new day.
“The Dark Leaves” has admittedly been available since April but matt pond PA are a band I’ve just recently come back in contact with after a more than 10 year absence. I knew matt pond PA once a long time ago and while the years have kept me from the band’s development, the quality of the music has only gotten tighter and freer in the intervening years.
matt pond PA are bandleader Matthew Pond on vocals, guitars and percussion and Chris Hansen on guitars, vocals, lap steel, bass, keys, percussion, and drums. Also getting credit on the album are Daniel Crowell for drums and percussion, Eve Miller on cello, Christian Frederickson on viola, Caleigh Drane on cello, Nina Fry and Sarah Restifo on vocals, and Stephen Jewett on guitar.
You have to be careful on a record like “The Dark Leaves” not to rush to judgment. Some people hear a tambourine and an acoustic guitar and think they know what they’re listening to already. “The Dark Leaves” strives to challenge and challenge again the listener.
A song like “Brooklyn Fawn” has a wonderfully melodic slide guitar line in it which evokes a sunrise in its arpeggios. The lyric is also sparsely evocative, trading colorful imagery with tangible feelings. “there’s a fawn with brown eyes, a broken hoof, from Brooklyn stars, a summer night…I dreamt I learned how not to speak, let go of words, let go of her – to let her be.”
But “The Dark Leaves” isn’t all heartache and melancholy. The emotional roller coaster that the words and music take you on is part of the reason people listen to music at all. You don’t need to get emotionally invested in “The Dark Leaves” but there certainly is ample opportunity.
“Ruins,” is a driving, quirky, pop number about the subsequent end of the existence of a species, or so it seems.
“Remains” is an anathematic song where the singer lays his soul bare: “if you want my blood, let me bleed; if you want a ghost, that’s what I’ll be.”
“The Dark Leaves Theme,” is a humorous sounding song for the “Dexter” viewer with the mantra chorus “life kills me.”
“Winter Fawn” is a melodically sparse number which sounds like frozen breath across still water.
“The Dark Leaves” is a satisfying listen for fans of jangly-moody-acoustic-alt-synth-pop-rock with an emphasis on rock. Don’t expect a dozen power ballads or whiny acoustic numbers either as the matt pond PA ethos is a lot more mature than that; a hybrid cross breed of Dave Matthews, Brian Eno, and pre-1970’s Peter Gabriel.
I don’t mean to be so imprecise about “The Dark Leaves,” I’ve just been searching for the words to describe this band for so long and even now as I listen to this record yet again, the best words escape me.
I guess that’s the sign of a true art though; if you’re looking for the whole story from “The Dark Leaves” it’s just one of those stories you need to get firsthand.