Matt Pond PA, may have stayed too long in the woods. Their earthy landscape of harvest moons and shadowy creeks harboring folk-goth songs of sorrow and lust has sustained them through nine albums. Their newest, THE DARK LEAVES doesn't depart from the cello driven forested parlor music they are identified with or singer, lyricist, and only constant band member Matt Pond's woeful meanderings in which his sad and weary view often struck a gentle nerve of alienation and heartache, ("The Hollows" from the MEASURE album is exciting and mournful). In THE DARK LEAVES the cloying lyrics, ("how it kills me, oh love kills me") and same old sound, like chamber music led by a pop star, finally sounds only dreary.
Given the band's narrow scope the songs here are quite diverse. "Remains" features a mesmerizing electric keyboard against a marching gospel-like ballad, "Winter Fawn" sounds like Roger Waters' "Grandchester Meadows" as a wind-up squeaky toy, and "Specks" has a go-tell-it-on-the-mountain fiddle with a echoed Springsteen yelp. But the stuff is getting maddeningly tiresome due to Pond's increasingly metaphoric lyrics set mostly against a moonlit country creek in which we waded, we swam, we frolicked, and now we want to get the hell out of these woods. New ground needed to be unearthed and we don't even go deeper into the hollow as the album flickers with interest via warm musical passages but extinguishes itself in a monotonous vibe.
The album may pass the mental hum test as parts of it gently breeze through my mind hours after hearing it, but still it's got no bite, no stinging refrain, too much salt in the wound and not enough tongue. It's lovely, just not lovely enough. Even the title of the album, The Dark Leaves, the dark departs, like there's got to be a morning after, leaves the most unimaginative of thoughts. I liked Matt Pond PA so much more when I thought they were a place, and not a person in Pennsylvania.