On this latest album, perennial indie hero Matt Pond officially drops the long-obsolete geographical nod of "PA" (he's currently a Florida resident) and operates under just his name for the first time in his illustrious recording career. Sound like a fresh start? Well, if the tenor of this album is any indication, it is.
With affecting vocals and a golden facility for supple, effortless melodies, Pond has always been a pop-smith of the highest order. But the bite of his usually reliable hooks has been blunted since his high-water mark era of 2004's Emblems and 2005's Several Arrows Later.
Now Matt Pond is back like never before. Unlike the heartsick bearing that's often his calling card, Lives is a deep, hungry breath of life beaming with radiant optimism. This new, sterling sense of mission is announced right up front with soaring opener "Let Me Live," a joyous, life-affirming zephyr that's just dying for a triumphant movie scene to accompany it. Other standouts include the liberating swells of "Hole in My Heart," the shimmering glide of "Go Where the Leaves Go" and especially the wide-swinging jubilance of "Love to Get Used."
Here, Pond's signature wistfulness rides atop huge blossoms of song that are sometimes upbeat to the point of danceability – and it's pretty glorious. Juiced with more airborne synthesizers, the music goes beyond the bedroom window and out on the open road.
The things that constitute the wonder of Pond's songs – his forever tasteful melodies and his perfected Peter Gabriel-esque timbre – remain constant. The difference is that it's all buffed to a new shine, the highlights of which have never been brighter in his entire catalog. Beauty has always been a part of Matt Pond's expression, but probably never has it been as unchained as it is here. Time will tell if it ends up his magnum opus, but it certainly deserves to be the mainline that catapults him to the next level of recognition.
Catch Matt Pond at the Social 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, $12-$14.
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
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