matt pond PA, "The Dark Leaves"

77 Billboard Rating

matt pond PA knows a thing or two about chamber pop. And since the Pennsylvania-based band's first album in 1998, there's no better example of this than its latest release, "The Dark Leaves." The appropriately titled opener "Starting" melds the warmth of frontman Matt Pond's voice with melancholy-tinged lyrics ("Let the pictures down/They hold no life"); the sprightly arrangements give way to a finger-snap breakdown with unexpected sex appeal. The radio-ready "Ruins" comprises a rolling piano melody, hand claps and a chorus catchy enough for Bruce Springsteen, while "The Dark Leaves Theme" pairs a lively beat with trembling strings and a low-key chorus on which Pond cries, "Life kills me." But it's the balance between delicate guitar, lush cello and the singer's rich vocals on "Brooklyn Fawn" that proves matt pond PA is ready to stretch out, not compromise. --Lindsey Fortier

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