All these years and personnel changes later and Matt Pond PA, founded in 1998, still holds it own on the strength of its front man’s voices–both his singing voice and his writing voice, that is, each of which is indelible.
Vocally, Pond trades on a pensive graininess of tone and an elusive range that gives him the sound of neither–or both–a baritone and a tenor. Once you’ve heard his singing voice it is thereafter unmistakable, which is a splendid, if probably random, characteristic. And yet his true strength is the means by which he gives himself something to sing: the staunch, well-crafted songs that he writes, full of concrete words to draw us in (dead bolts, gasoline, hips, knees), parallel structures (i.e. lyrical lines that share a certain construction) to display offhand authority, inaudible lyrics to make us listen harder next time, and bright turns of melody that in fact make us want to listen any number of other times. I especially like how, in a largely inscrutable song, he manages to slip in a conclusion as pithy and suasive as: “Make no mistake/There’s no love/When the words are gone.”
Matt Pond PA was one of the first bands whose sound and depth impressed me as Fingertips was first getting going back in the ’03-’04 time frame, and indeed became one of the first 21st-century indie bands to hit some semblance of the big time via exposure on broadcast TV soundtracks. But the ’00s showed us that there is indeed a fine line between up-and-coming and down-and-going. I feel sorry for quality bands stuck navigating their careers through a fickle and fragmented culture that hews to a shallow and imaginary view of good and bad, but I am happy that Matt Pond and company persevere. “Starting” will appear on the album The Dark Leaves, the band’s eighth full-length, slated for an April release on Altitude Records. MP3 via Paste Magazine. Note that this is not a direct link; click on the song title here and you will be taken to a page from which you can then download the song.