It’s getting to be that time again. You know what I’m talking about — “best of” time, the part of an artist’s career where they take a break and put out one CD with selections from other ones, just to catch everyone up. In Matt Pond PA’s case, it may not be such a bad idea. The band has five studio albums and four EPs, not including the “Lily Two” single, which has a snazzy cover of The Stranglers’ “Golden Brown” as its b-side. But all of this has happened in the course of six years. I feel tempted to say, “Slow down, Mr. Pond,” but I can’t, merely because the more music MPPA puts out, the happier I am. And what do we have here? Yet another new recording by the talented Pennsylvanians.
Winter Songs is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding MPPA discography. Consisting of a few originals and a few covers, Winter Songs is a splendid mix of sounds, easily one of the most diverse and unusual recordings in the Pond catalog. Beginning with “Snow Day,” the band immediately throws us into a wintry afternoon on the East Coast, as the song’s upbeat melody and seasonal lyrics seem to conjure images of fuzzy sweaters and scarves. And then you notice a theme developing: a cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong,” “Winter One,” “Holiday Road.” Get it?
Anyway, the band’s choice of covers is nothing to sneeze at. Their take on “Winterlong” is characteristically fantastic. But the real treat is their reading of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” Instead of replicating Jeff Mangum’s tin-pan alley, ramshackle orchestra, Pond and Co. transform the song into a somber, dreamy lullaby. Trumpet is replaced by cello and the original’s rusty acoustic chords are traded for cascading chorus-laden riffs. It’s a lovely, perfect moment that’s sure to become a part of your regular rotation, once you hear it.
Winter Songs is a solid effort, even if it is just meant to tide us over until the next full-length. But pluck “Snow Day” and “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” off of this EP and the “best-of” would be just about complete. They really ought to consider it.
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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.