There are a few things everybody needs to know about Matt Pond PA. First of all, they’ve been around a pretty long time. Their new album, Emblems, is their fifth, not counting the three EPs they’ve put out since their debut, Deer Apartments was released. Second, Matt Pond PA is not a town or a person. Matt Pond is the name of their central songwriter and lead singer, but Matt Pond PA is, in actuality, five people (sometimes six). And third, whether or not you’ve heard them or hear anything about them, Matt Pond PA is responsible for some of the most breathtaking, lush indie pop music ever to reach commercial distribution.
How is it then, that after a long tenure as cult indie favorites, they haven’t burst into the mainstream? There’s always the argument that it’s niche-based music and that going mainstream for a band such as this would be considered “selling out.” Fair enough, but this is pop music at its most pure and joyous. It’s too infectious not to be able to be enjoyed by everyone. In fact, I once made a mix for Sam that included the song “Summer is Coming” from MPPA’s The Nature of Maps. As it turns out, it was his favorite song on the mix, and has subsequently been a favorite on mixes I’ve made for other friends.
So here stand Matt Pond and his merry (sometimes melancholy) band as they release their fifth album, Emblems, a title was actually considered as a new name for the band (the humble songwriter didn’t want to take all the credit). Though there are no immediately accessible and life-affirming epics like “Summer is Coming” on Emblems, it’s nonetheless a flawless album of the quality we’ve come to expect from the Pennsylvanian band.
Album opener “kc” is catchy and bouncy, certainly worthy of radio hit status. And tunes like “Closest (Look Out)” and “Claire” are the closest the band has ever come to…ahem…rocking out. The band truly excels when they make things a little bit prettier. “Lily Two” is gorgeous in a Skylarking kind of way, while album closer “Close (kc two)” is gracious and stark.
There’s no reason not to love this album, but alas, five records in and still no Mercedes. Maybe it’s for the best. We all hate it when that annoying jerk at the office starts listening to your favorite band and sings all their songs off-key. Try as you may, you can’t ignore him, and you’re forced to listen to something else just to get his painful rendition out of your head. I’d hate to have somebody ruin Matt Pond PA for me, but still, after all this time, they deserve a little bit more.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.