New Release Friday: Matt Pond PA – Songs of Disquiet

Posted by Greg on Aug 7, 2020 in Music |

Let’s face it, this has been a tumult of a year. And that’s probably an understatement. But sometimes, if we let it, music can be the saving presence we need to make sense of his chaotic world. One such entrant into that category is the latest release from indie duo Matt Pond PA. Their latest, an EP called Songs of Disquiet, features mostly covers and a handful of originals, all performed in a way that is both magnetic, affecting and deeply relevant.

The album opens with “The Start V2” a twinkling, airy and bright paean to summer that is winsome, warm and buttressed by rustling acoustic guitars. Matt Pond’s vocals are plainspoken, tender and borderline defeated. Ostensibly a song about being bare and honest about one’s heart condition it segues into something that is lush, pleasing and quite digestible. Like most of Matt Pond’s repertoire this is harmless, non-threatening indie-folk anchored in first-rate production.

The first of three instrumentals is “Wild Strawberries” a fingerpicked acoustic foray that calls to mind New England instrumentalist Spencer Lewis. At only 90 seconds it is a most welcome salve and balm from the weariness of an all-too heavy world.

The first of three covers is “Pillar of Salt (Still)” an acoustic reinvention of the brilliant 2006 song by The Thermals. Once again Pond sounds weary and limp, almost defeated. A mournful sonic backdrop makes the song feel more like an elegy or a funeral. If there’s any hope to be found, it manifests itself in the final minute.

The EP’s first real triumphant moment comes in the form of “Rock in the Sea” another cover, this one originally performed in 1972 by Shocking Blue. Upbeat and bouncy while also being urgent and antic, this is the sound of a duo that is equal parts triumphant and tremendous. Taking a break from the momentum of “Rock in the Sea” Pond and Co. take a break with the second instrumental, a 68-second fingerpicked delight named “Summer Interlude.” Very much a book-end to “Wild Strawberries” it is another effort by a duo that seems to do little, if any, wrong.

As the EP nears its finish, Pond and Co. offer up the ubiquitous George Harrison cover “Give Me Love” and while its not exactly cutting-edge or long-lasting, it is a song that is as relevant as ever and one that needs to be heard to be fully realized. For reasons known to only Pond and his crew, the EP offers a second version of “Pillar of Salt” with this one carrying the bracketed subtitle ‘Stirred’. Veering away from the funereal acoustic version “Pillar of Salt (Stirred)” is a dance romp that has a pulse and presence not heard since “Rock in the Sea.” What makes this second version so memorable is that it relates the same sense of honesty and authenticity but in a way that is completely different than its predecessor. Truth be told this is not an easy feat and one the band should be celebrated for.

The EP concludes with “Face to Face” the third and final instrumental effort on the album. More layered and nuanced than the previous two instrumentals “Face to Face” is the veritable proof that Matt Pond PA should at some point release an instrumental album. They just seem to do it as well as just about anybody else.

And it is those those instrumentals that help make Songs of Disquiet the perfect response to a year plagued by a pandemic, political division and racial reconciliation to name a few. And it is in these eight songs that one feels released from the tumult. In these eight songs there is a collective sigh, a breath exhaled and a hope born of better things to come. Whether or not that was the intention of Songs of Disquiet remains to be seen, but for now, it stands alone as a truly great release from a truly great indie duo. More than a decade into this strange foray that is Matt Pond PA, they might just be better than ever.

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