I don’t know how strange it’s been, but it has certainly been a long trip for Matt Pond PA. The band’s story begins in Philadelphia in 1998, before relocating to Brooklyn in 2003, leaving Matt Pond himself as the only original member of the band. The ever-changing lineup has crisscrossed the country in support of seven earlier albums, and a whole bunch of EPs and singles.
For his eighth album, The Dark Leaves (Altitude Records), Matt Pond retreated to the bucolic bliss of Bearsville, New York. There, free of big city distractions, Pond set to work with engineer and co-producer Chris Hansen. The album that emerged from these “cabin sessions” reflects the upheaval that has taken place in Pond’s life and career since his last album, 2007’s Last Light, in songs like “Remains,” where Pond declares “if you want a ghost then that’s what I’ll be.” All is not gloom however. “Specks” celebrates the joy and optimism to be found in the beauty of nature:
Up above us these specks of silver
In the evening sky
Specks of gold in the river running
From the deep moonlight
When the sun starts coming through
Or when the cardinal chants the moon
I believe in energies
That no one has to see for us to prove
I believe in you and me
For everything we’ll ever see and do
Matt Pond is a gifted melodist who uses images of the natural world to lend his stories heightened meaning. He delivers his message in a voice so full of heartache and wonder that his veracity is beyond reproach. Things have changed since his last album, that much is obvious. A dark time has passed, and light is just beginning to appear on the horizon. Still coming to terms with the loss, in the song “Ruins” he wonders, “were you just being funny, when you cut down my tree? I was hanging my hat there, on a bent knee.” There is much made of ghosts in this song too, indicating a lingering sense of being haunted.
Matt Pond’s sound has remained consistent, and readily identifiable throughout a number of recordings now. In that respect, The Dark Leaves does not represent any quantum leap stylistically. What has also remained consistent, however, is the quality of his songwriting, and the intensity of his search for meaning in a world where it is increasingly hard to find. The Dark Leaves is an album that you can let wash over you for a pleasant aural experience, or focus on more intently and allow it to reveal its deeper truths.