The Perfect Pop Songs of Matt Pond PA

By Geoffrey Stueven

Matt Pond is one of those classically gifted songwriters whose talent is his curse. Like Stephin Merritt or Joe Pernice, and going back to Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello and Marshall Crenshaw, he inspires the image of a man sitting at a desk in a dimly lit room, constructing his next masterpiece with quarter notes and treble clefs, aware that it will be released to an increasingly unsuspecting world. The interest has either waned with time or was never there in the first place. The latter is true for Matt Pond.Which is why he seemed so overjoyed at the turnout at Minneapolisƒ?TMs Varsity Theater on a cold Tuesday night in February. When he told the audience, ƒ?oeWeƒ?TMre really happy to be here,ƒ?? he went on to say that this statement wasnƒ?TMt ƒ?oefucking contrived bullshit.ƒ?? His serene smile, showing a trace Andrew McCarthy heartthrobism, further verified his claim.

Pond is the leader of a wonderful indie-rock quintet by the name of Matt Pond PA, who happen to hail from Pennsylvania. Over a career of only seven years, the band has built up a considerable body of pop gems. Tuesdayƒ?TMs set had the feeling of a veteran rolling through 20 years of hits, endlessly pulling another nugget from out of his past. The truth is that the majority of the songs comprise two years of work and two albums, 2004ƒ?TMs Emblems (Altitude) and last yearƒ?TMs Several Arrows Later (Altitude).

On the new album, Pond seems to have developed a band credo: ƒ?oeYou should not want to sound like they do / You should want to sound like you,ƒ?? he sings on the title track. And while his sound isnƒ?TMt strikingly original, it does seem to echo the desire for that perfect musical synthesis that has been practiced by all the best songwriters since the aforementioned Paul McCartney. Itƒ?TMs nothing revolutionary: guitars and drums, songs that sound like the seasons, lamentations of ex-girlfriends.

Itƒ?TMs the urgency and the dark underbelly of Pondƒ?TMs songs that makes them so vital. Here is found the side of his songs that canƒ?TMt be put on paper and his best reason for ever emerging from his dim writing space. The twinkling guitars and strings thick with nostalgia help recall the lighter moments of 80s post-punk gloom, and this is where one realizes the great services of guitarist Brian Pearl and cellist Dana Feder in augmenting Pondƒ?TMs masterpieces.

Even so, one eventually asks the question, ƒ?oeYes, Mr. Pond, you can write a perfect pop song, but what else?ƒ?? The answer to that question is an echo: Well, what else is there? What has been a more consistently concise and mannered and beautiful expression of human ambition since the invention of the poem?

So while Matt Pond PA may never become flavor of the month like those other perfecters of pop The Shins, theyƒ?TMll be rewarded one day. Down the line, theyƒ?TMll be called timeless and classic and all those other adjectives all songwriters strive for.