The changing of times can always leave many lingering doubts in one’s head. Often, I’ve noticed that some people even begin to act a bit strangely whenever the seasons change or whenever the weather takes a drastic turn for the worst. Call it genetic or an out-of-body experience but there is definitely something in the air. Matt Pond PA’s new album, The Dark Leaves, suggest a changing of the time and how the darkness always seems to come through strongest. Which, in itself is an oxymoron seeing as how the dark should be easier to hide but regardless; Pond and his band counter everything with an interestingly composed album.
It’s a peculiar album, in all reality, because for once, these musicians actually sound comfortable in their own skin, creating easily constructed music that is both enjoyable and redeemable. Many times, their previous efforts were clouded with an uncertainty of how serious it should all be and for the first time, they’ve amassed a collection of songs that stand together, proudly. It’s not a life-changing moment, nor is it even something that will win tons of new fans but it is a solid album, from front to back.
The music on The Dark Leaves is glowing, crisp pop rock that never veers off the modern compass of direct music. Combining elements of pristine production with melodies and rhythms that are both easy to follow while maintaining a certain amount of flair, Pond’s voice is still a fantastic weapon at hand. The band doesn’t even need to do much because the songs all sound extremely well done and at just eleven tracks long, it never goes on for too long. Instead, you have the sort of album that people like John Vanderslice would make, if they had a larger outfit playing and supporting behind him.
On “Specks,” Pond sings about “When the sun comes shining through” and later admits, “I believe in you and me,” with such an open demeanor that it actually sounds genuine. The banjo behind him only adds to this small touch of country twang but in the end, it’s the happiness abound that resonates the strongest. Like an uplifted Justin Vernon, Pond sounds freakishly similar to the downtrodden singer on many songs. But it’s the upbeat style of songs like “Ruins” that make everything that much better. Not only is the change of pace done well – on an album that has varying tempos and styles – but it’s a catchy piece of rock that simply sounds that much better with the rolling piano chords. These modifications are all done well and they deliver a terrific amount of skill that you’d be hard-pressed to ignore, even if you wanted to.
For what they’ve set out to make, The Dark Leaves is surely a success in the most novel of terms. There will be moments where we need to actually be glad for having bands like Matt Pond PA around. Not just because their music is a treat to hear, each time out, but solely on the fact that consistency – even when it’s in fair doses – should always be rewarded. Like the changing leaves, the light comes through in the end no matter what and for Pond and his band; it seems to be shining pretty strong at the moment.