Plumbiferous Media

The Dark Leaves - Matt Pond PA

Apr 18th 2010
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The Dark Leaves - Matt Pond PAMatt Pond PA
The Dark Leaves
Score: 59

Matt Pond PA released its newest album last Tues­day. At this point, the band has already accu­mu­lat­ed a respectable num­ber of LPs, along with a slew of EPs - and for­mer band mem­bers. The album, The Dark Leaves, has its moments, but is clear­ly weighed down by an ununi­fied approach, rea­son­able for a band that has changed mem­bers so many times, but uncom­mon among bands’ 8th albums.

The largest issue for mpPA on The Dark Leaves is the band’s inabil­i­ty to agree on what songs should sound like. Half of the band insists on con­stant, flow­ing sound, while the oth­er half plays only trun­cat­ed and force­ful repeat­ed notes. This style con­flict then con­sumes both the vocals and the album as a whole. Matt Pond, even when clear­ly strain­ing, can nev­er seem to sing loud enough over the instru­men­tal dichoto­my, and the album ends up sound­ing like one long, long con­flict, tru­ly inter­rupt­ed only once or twice.

In all fair­ness, those inter­rup­tion do prove to be quite worth­while. On “Remains,” the band man­ages to come togeth­er to cre­ate waves of beau­ti­ful crescen­dos some­how only accen­tu­at­ed by the staunch drum­beats. These tracks also serve to show that, whether or not they can agree with each oth­er, the band mem­bers are still pret­ty tal­ent­ed musi­cians. While not ter­ri­bly com­pli­cat­ed, the drum fills near the end of “Remains” are per­fect­ly placed and bal­anced. Sim­i­lar­ly, “Spar­rows,” which plays sig­nif­i­cant­ly more with melodies in instru­men­tal sec­tions than oth­er tracks, best exem­pli­fies the excel­lent, though always sub­tle use of keyboards.

As for Matt Pond him­self, the album’s breathy, some­times slurred vocals main­tain a remark­ably rich sound that does what it can to per­me­ate the thick fog of instru­men­tals. But every good qual­i­ty main­tained by the vocals seems to be negat­ed by some­thing less desir­able. While the vocals main­tain a strong tone, they are cer­tain­ly not unique to any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. And though they most­ly try and fit with the flow­ing half of the rest of the music, Pond some­times ends up sound­ing strained, which, though under­stand­able, giv­en how lit­tle room the rest of the sound gives him, is nev­er­the­less unde­sir­able. As for what Matt Pond is actu­al­ly singing, the lyrics are about as inof­fen­sive as pos­si­ble. Nei­ther impor­tant nor notice­able, the long-wind­ed love-relat­ed sto­ries can eas­i­ly be ignored, have no tru­ly excep­tion­al lines, and seem to have no effect what­so­ev­er on the over­all sound of the album.

In fact, the most impres­sive aspect of The Dark Leaves is that, even through all of its con­flict and medi­oc­rity, it’s not a bad album. In fact, it’s pret­ty easy to see The Dark Leaves as decent radio or back­ground music. While any con­cept that might have ini­tial­ly fueled the album was quick­ly sub­merged - even the minor sec­tion intro­duc­ing “The Dark Leaves Theme” is rapid­ly replaced with an entire­ly more upbeat track - The Dark Leaves fares pret­ty well with­out any sort of dri­ving force.

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