matt pond PA – The Nature of Maps

matt pond PA
The Nature of Maps

Matt Pond and his band have mastered the kind of mature indie-rock that’s taken over the hearts of indie-minded kids who grew into the genre with bands like Guided By Voices and Pavement. Much more focused and instrumentally sound, the new style of indie bands features strong songwriting and a greater range of instrumentation, and this record has it down pat. A worthy successor to 2000’s Measure and 2001’s strong if not quite as stellar The Green Fury, a listen to The Nature of Maps gives you the feeling that this is the album Pond and co. have been waiting to make.
Adding a second cellist to the mix, Matt Pond PA the band features now two cellos, violin, vibraphone, harp, piano, and banjo in addition to drums, bass, and guitar. Pond sings in his perfectly sincere voice and lays on the acoustic guitar, while the band fills in the songs that often soar on gorgeous melodies and moments of more urgent yet mid-tempo rock. Still, the focus is and always has been Pond’s songwriting. Deeply personal yet intricate and vivid, he paints a picture that the strings beautifully help portray.
The album starts with one of the band’s most upbeat numbers. “Fairlee” rides a rolling beat and fast-paced guitar that has a fun and up-tempo feel. And while that’s a fun song, most of Matt Pond PA’s songs are more laid-back, allowing the strings to swirl around the soft guitars and vocals. “The Party” is a perfect example, with its soft acoustic guitar that seems to envelop the haunting cello, as Pond sings, “Sunday night is always bad / School’s not there but still have the weekend that you left behind.”
A classic Matt Pond PA song, “Closer” is fantastic. Light with jangly keys and deep with vibrant strings, Pond’s voice on the chorus is perfect and lovely. “New Kehoe NJ” and “Close Map” have a Death Cab for Cutie feel to it, light and more bouncy, while “Summer is Coming” builds upon a fantastic rhythm and layered guitars and strings for one of the most enigmatic and moving songs on the album. The electric guitar comes out on the mid-tempo “A Million Middle Fingers,” and the album’s closer, “Athabasca,” makes perhaps the best use of acoustic guitars, turning out a quieter, more folky tune that is the perfect ending.
One of my favorite indie rock bands currently, Matt Pond PA has set quite a tradition, releasing three excellent albums in three years. And while I found The Green Fury not quite matching up to Measure’s potential, The Nature of Maps is definitely a worthy follow-up and a stellar album. Worth repeated listens, it fits every environment, every mindset, proving the talent of Pond and his crew.