matt pond PA – Several Arrows Later

matt pond PA
Several Arrows Later

With more and more play in commercials and popular TV shows, indie music is quickly losing its outsider status. Putting all debates about the ebb and flow of its commercialization aside, Matt Pond PA is a prime example of indie in mainstream media: The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and TV’s The O.C. to name a few.

But finger-waggers take note – Matt Pond PA is not “selling out,” because the band still makes music in the vein of its 1998 debut, Deer Apartments. Unfortuately, this is probably why the latest effort, 2005’s Several Arrows Later, left me a little cold.

I first heard MPPA in late 2002 and immediately liked the brand of “chamber pop.” The music sounded refined but still grounded in the do-it-yourself tradition so vital to independent music. But 2003’s Emblems and each subsequent release has been redundant. For bands like MPPA, it’s a catch-22: you can change and possibly alienate your audience, or you can avoid change and risk stagnancy. But at this point in MPPA’s run, it would probably be unwise to change. New mainstream fans will surely find the band’s sound very appealing. But in a few short months, it will be up to MPPA to figure out how to hold on and avoid becoming an industry flash in the pan.

Bright spots on Several Arrows Later include the title track, a straight-ahead rock song in which Pond’s urgent lyrics and forceful delivery are a welcome change from his usual nostalgic ambiguities. And the album closer, “Devil in the Water,” brings a fresh vocal approach. The songs, as always, are simple but richly textured, and the production is solid throughout.

Matt Pond PA will likely keep gaining fans with the band’s easily palatable sound and increased exposure. But fans versed in the ways of Matt Pond may find the new material a little too old hat.