By the third listening of Matt Pond PA’s newest cd, The Nature of Maps, which will be released on October 29th, I found myself singing along to the opening guitar riffs of the first song on the cd, “Fairlee.” The guitar riffs kept me interested for most of the song, but the lyrics and vocals were a little disappointing, nothing to match the guitar parts or the many layers of sound created by the varied instrumentation of the group. Without a doubt, the cd definitely has some interesting and (sometimes) catchy blends of instruments and sound. With two cellos, two guitars, a bass, drums, various percussion, and even a vibraphone, keyboards, violin, harp, and banjo making appearances on this album, this is not your everyday garage band.
Besides the first track, the only other song that stood out to me in the first four tracks was track three, “The Party”, which continues to pick up layers as it gets further into the song creating a really cool affect by the end of the song, where the layers gradually fade out again until only a simple guitar rhythm is left—the same guitar rhythm the song started with. The vocals on this song are probably some of the better on the cd, just because of the overlapping of the lead vocals and the backup, helping to produce the many layers. With track five and six, “New Kehoe NJ” and “Close Map” respectively, the Pond party picks up the pace a little… I was starting to wonder if this was the type of music you listen to in bed on a rainy day, half-asleep… But then track seven, (“No More, Again”) brings us back to the rainy day mood with nothing but acoustic guitar, piano, and strings, with a 50 second little interlude type of thing that leads up to track eight, “Summer Is Coming.” I really have no idea what those fifty seconds on that track are about. Anyway, “Summer Is Coming” picks up the pace again, has some fun little guitar parts, and is, I think, one of the better tracks on the cd. At times, the guitar parts, drums, and vocals almost reminded me of Death Cab for Cutie. Track ten, “A Million Middle Fingers” mixes things up a bit: if I just popped into a cd player, you might not be able to tell if it was an eighties pop song or… Matt Pond PA? Hard to believe, I know. Well, I actually like the fact that they try a little different mix of sounds from the earlier tracks. But it only clocks in at two minutes even, leaving me with just a taste and nothing to satisfy my curiosity. The last song on the album, “Athabasca,” left me with good memories of the cd, with its Beatles-esque sound and lyrics. Finally a song that I think I want to sing along to and maybe could! Definitely a good closer to the album, with its simple yet catchy and sweet melody, possibly the best on the whole album.
The combination of sounds on this cd definitely interested me and kept me in wait, and for that, I give them bonus points. Furthermore, these musicians are talented and they know what they are doing, but they keep the music deceptively simple— I wish they would stretch their legs a little bit more. I really liked some of the combos in sounds, but I wish they had mixed up their sound even a little more than they did. I wish there was a little more of the extremes and little less of everything in the middle. Except for track one (with the nice sing-along guitar parts) and track three (and even that starts off slowly), the first half of the cd is nothing too memorable. I think the vocals could really use some improvement. The lead, Matt Pond seems to stay pretty much in the same range, with not too much variation throughout the cd. Once again, I wish he had stretched his ability a little bit more and done something a little more out of the ordinary, something more memorable. Overall, I thought there were a couple of really good tracks on the album, but too many in between those good ones that were more forgettable. The cd improves as it progresses through the tracks and the group starts to try out some new things by the end… but even there, it falls a little short. The last few songs, especially the last, “Athabasca,” left me asking for more—but also wondering why it took so long to get to there.