Matt Pond PA
Spring Fools EP
Although they’ve released a slew of great full-length albums, Matt Pond PA has always been an EP band as well. One could argue that over the last decade or so they’ve been almost single-handedly keeping the format alive. With so much material available (often in easily digestible chunks), it has always amazed me why Matt Pond PA is not a bigger band than it is, at least on the order of, say, a Death Cab for Cutie.
Maybe it’s the whole name confusion thing. Is it a guy? Is it a band? Well, it’s both of course. Singer-songwriter Matt Pond originally formed the band in the late ’90s as a chamber pop quintet when he moved to Philadelphia (hence the PA). Through numerous lineup and label changes, the band has remained remarkably consistent, producing a body of work strewn with great songs filled with melancholy hooks, autumnal melodies, enigmatic lyrics that reflect on nature and the human condition in equal measure, and impeccably tasteful arrangements and musicianship.
Oh, and did I mention, they rock too? Especially over the course of the last few albums they’ve lost a lot of the chamber and have amped up the pop with some of the peppiest tunes of their career.
Still, I worry that these guys somehow missed the on-ramp to superstardom. Their best chance at it may have come with 2007’s Last Light, a record that seemed overstuffed with should-have-been hits (the album had been previewed four months earlier by — you guessed it — an EP). But instead of being defeated by a lack of superstardom or deciding to phone it in, the band kept plugging away and continues to crank out great songs in packages both large and small.
Fortunately, the band’s latest foray into the truncated album format proves to be a fine introduction for the uninitiated. In just over 20 minutes, you get:
The big beat, undeniable hooks and guitar fillagrees of “Love to Get Used”: “Let’s hang on to abandon / Let’s hope we lose control / To be out in the open baby / And let go of the rope.”
The almost ska-like rhythms of “Human Beings”: “In your wildest dreams / The depths of evening / You have to believe in / The human beings.”
The spry, piano-and-pedal-steel-enhanced “Lovers Always Win” with winning duet vocals by 19-year-old Ariel Abshire: “I’ve heard in the spring we’ll live again / They say in the spring we all begin.”
The pastoral pleasures of “Spring Fawn” which hearkens back to the band’s earlier sound with its gentle acoustic guitar, fuzzed out lead guitar, shuffling percussion and Pond’s multi-tracked vocals: “Soon is the spring / With the grass becoming green / With the hope for everything / Waiting to happen.”
The jingle-jangle pop and evocative lyricism of “Sugar Bush”: “Let the moon show off all its silver / Let the night give dawn its due / Let the birds stretch out in the open / Let the green eyes give me proof.”
So for those of you who have held out on exploring Matt Pond PA, you no longer have any excuses. In one brief, tantalizing, and inexpensive package, you can hear a lot of what you’ve been missing for the last decade and perhaps get a glimpse into the future of one of the most underrated bands in America. As Pond sings on the last track: “Our hearts keep singing loud and true.” Indeed. And it’s about time you started listening.
Matt Pond PA: www.mattpondpa.com