This is the kind of careful pop that should be pumping out of radios and racking up soundscan numbers across America. Right out of the box, this new (concept) album proves that Matt Pond PA deserves every bit of the praise he and his band have received for their previous work, and then some.
The opening track, “Starting,” sounds a little hesitant at first, taking it’s time to warm up, but ultimately pulls itself along with a tricky vocal hook and a weeping organ hiding underneath the drums, and we’re off on a ride through Bel Air on a quasi-cloud of audio bliss. Singer/songwriter Matt Pond is no poor man’s Sufjan Stevens (or, fill in your indie starboy here), as he soars into the Heavens with “Sparrows,” or the next track, “Running Wild,” a song with a deft melody and cleanly delivered vocal that has him sounding a bit like Peasant (Damien DeRose), and which blossoms into a lovely denoument.
“Specks” can’t hide it’s affinity for Bon Iver and that’s quite alright as the magical chorus could dance proudly alongside any song on For Emma, Forever Ago. And then there’s “Remains,” which sparkles and shines as a superior specimen of new clean rock music. And the gentle, detached tones of “Brooklyn Fawn” are kindred spirits with the songs of Denison Witmer, and comprise nothing sort of perfect sonic architecture. “The Dark Leaves Theme” loosens its tie and bounds around a 70s guitar and organ motif as Matt sings, “In the air we can breathe, I believe/Life kills me/Oh, life kills me.” And in keeping with a sense of being somewhat out of solution, the title of the last song is “First Song” and it closes the proceedings with a vocal that is emotive and restrained at the same time. A tune that I’m sure Peter Gabriel wishes he had written.