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PREMIERE: Matt Pond PA looks back and inward on the reflective Skeletons and Friends LP

Matt Pond PA | photo by Anna Larina | courtesy of the artisr
Matt Pond PA | photo by Anna Larina | courtesy of the artisr

Matt Pond PA caught my ear back in my college days with Measure, an elegant collection of songs released on a tiny Philly label called File 13. On that album, followed in quick succession by two excellent Polyvinyl releases — The Nature of Maps and The Green Fury, both from 2002 the eponymous songwriter showed that he was a man on a creative streak, an artist who had no reservations about bringing cello and violin into the indierock community, a musician who surrounded himself with a rotating cast of players who could make acoustic guitars and brush drumsticks more invigorating than pedalboards and cranked vintage amps.

Streaks like this often end. Pond’s didn’t. I’ve kept up with his career over the subsequent decade and three-quarters, and his work has maintained a consistently high caliber. Whether you’re talking about the outstanding Several Arrows Later (with its one-two opening punch of “Halloween” into “So Much Trouble”) or the very introspective Dark Leaves LP (which was briefly toyed with as a new band name), all the way up to last year’s Winter Lives and its effervescent single “The Glow,” his records are consistently impressive works. Even the many EPs and one-off singles across the MPPA catalog — 2001’s solemn I Thought You Were Sleeping, the seasonal 2005 outing Winter Songs (dude’s overarching vibe is autumn leaves, the outdoors and snow) 2008’s The Freeep (quite literally, a free EP) and its followup The Threeep — I mean, this is stuff that a lesser artist might use merely as stopgap fillers, as half-assed placeholders, but Pond doesn’t half-ass anything.

Which brings us to the man / the band’s latest, Skeletons and Friends, Pond’s god-dang twelfth full length and a remastered / expanded revisit of a project originally began in 2014. When we were approached about premiering it, it was described as “an in-between album.” And, as I’d expect from Pond, it’s as finished a product as you’ll ever hear. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Matt Pond PA brings his wintry charm to WCL

Matt Pond PA / Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Matt Pond PA / Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Matt Pond PA‘s music was made for the long drive home, for the precious little time spent with family. The music off his new record Winter Lives evokes images of snow-capped pines and valleys dusted in white. His lyricism evokes imagery of a world that, while rife with problems, is still beautiful. His music, especially from this latest record, instills a belief that there is somehow still love out there, a belief, foremost, in people.

That belief shone throughout his Free at Noon set; starting with “In Winter” he made the room warm up with lyrics like “the cold will bring us close”, a welcome sentiment in a time where, frighteningly, everyone feels slightly more distant than usual. “The Glow,” a song written for Pond’s mother, was rife with vibrant guitar, and painted a beautiful picture of a family and all its messy dynamics in the dead of winter. Songs like “So Much Trouble”, “Love To Get Used” and “Halloween” showed Pond’s take on all the vicissitudes of life; humans, as it turns out, are still complicated. Continue reading →

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Folkadelphia Session: Matt Pond PA

Photo by Sean Hansen, courtesy of Riot Act Media.
Photo by Sean Hansen, courtesy of Riot Act Media.

Back in 2005, I started to hear a lot about this guy Matt Pond and PA, which I guessed was the state he was living in. Ever the curious listener, I decided to find out what kind of music he was making, what the talk was all about, so I picked up the new album, Matt Pond PA‘s Several Arrows Later. For me and many others, this album became the gateway into the rich and textured imagination of Pond. Perfectly crafted melodies, a glimmering sheen around the instruments, and an undeniable energy that keeps you listening (and often dancing) from track to track. It also feels seasonal – we start in the autumn with “Halloween” and end up with the hope of promise of warmer weather in “Spring Provides.” There’s no doubt that throughout the years this album has helped me to inject a modicum of brightness and color into the eternal grey of mid-winter. Thank Pond.
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Studies in Contrast: Matt Pond PA and Laura Stevenson don’t back down at The Foundry

Matt Pond PA | Photo by Matthew Shaver | brightloud.com
Matt Pond PA | Photo by Matthew Shaver | brightloud.com

There was always an interesting contrast in singer and songwriter Matt Pond when he lived in Philadelphia. Under the nom-de-stage matt pond PA, he spent the late 90s and early aughts making albums and EPs of touching, beautifully-orchestrated songs awash in cello and meditative acoustic guitar. But he also came up during the Guided by Voices heyday when crowds at Philly clubs were largely indie-bros who binge-drank and talked loudly over everybody, even the people they were ostensibly there to see. Pond had no patience for that shit, and rightfully so. And over time, the guy who wrote these sensitive, personal songs developed a local rep for being something of an angry and aggressive crank – when, really, he was just dishing back the attitude the crowd was giving him.

Those who were there at the time know how the story proceeded. Pond eventually amassed a local fan base that came for him, not for the scene, but he nonetheless left Philly for New York where his career blossomed in ways none of us expected. He got songs placed in TV and film, developed a strong national profile and released Several Arrows Later, a timeless work that is remarkably uncynical and sentimental, considering that it came from somebody who was at that point nearly a decade into a career on the brutal chew-em-up-spit-em-out indie circuit. He remains a prolific writer and recorder, and after a solo LP – The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand – he revived the “PA” moniker for a run celebrating the 10th anniversary of Emblems, followed up by this year’s State of Gold.

It’s a beautiful record as only Pond can deliver, and his gig at The Foundry in support of it a couple weeks back – rumored to be the final matt pond PA tour – was equal parts moving and rousing. “So Much Trouble” and “Halloween” were immediate winners off the top, and “Love To Get Used” brought the main set to a tremendous close. The proceedings were also, Pond being Pond, a little cantankerous.  Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Matt Pond PA at Union Transfer, Israel Nash at Kable House, The Left Banke at Sellersville Theater

Matt Pond / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Matt Pond / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

Acoustic indie favorites Matt Pond PA play Union Transfer tonight to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their album Several Arrows Later. Released at the point when the Philadelphia / New York City outfit was beginning to emerge beyond the basements and bars where they built their fan base, it sounded like an arrival, with songs that crossed over into a bigger pop sound. Listen to “Halloween” below and get tickets and information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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RiverCity Festival puts on a grand block party with Matt Pond, The Lawsuits and more

RiverCity Festival
Fishtown RiverCity Festival | photo by Matthew Shaver

It was a bad weekend for weather, but quite a good one for neighborhood parties.  The Fishtown RiverCity Festival was a grand collection of local merchants, food, beer, and entertainment.  Levee Drivers, Katie Barbato, Pine Barons, Ginger Coyle, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, The Lawsuits, and Matt Pond all braved the dreary (and often chilly) weather to bring the funk, folk, rock, and blues.  There was also a delicious assortment of beverages from Neshaminy Creek, 2nd Story Brewing Co., Saint Benjamin, Homebrew Outlet, and Philadelphia Brewing Co.  So, a block (park?) party the way it should be.  Check out photos below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Matt Pond at Fishtown RiverCity Festival, Betty Who at the TLA, Chill Moody, Swift Technique, and others at Bloktoberfest and more…

Matt Pond | Photo by Michelle Montgomery
Matt Pond | Photo by Michelle Montgomery

This weekend is the 7th annual Fishtown RiverCity Festival, held at Penn Treaty Park from noon to 6:00 p.m., offering fun family activities, food, and live entertainment. As part of the entertainment, singer-songwriter and XPNFest alum Matt Pond headlines. Best known for his calming, smooth indie rock sound that he played for 15 years in his band Matt Pond PA, the New York artist released a solo album proper in 2013 called The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hands. Other acts include The Lawsuits, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, Ginger Coyle, and more. Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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WXPN welcomes Matt Pond and more to the RiverCity Festival

Matt Pond
Matt Pond | Photo by Michelle Montgomery

Local favorite singer-songwriter Matt Pond – a former Philadelphian based in New York – will headline the seventh annual RiverCity Festival taking place at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown on Saturday, October 11th.  The free festival, situated along the river off of Delaware Avenue, is stocked with a stellar line-up of local bands, vendors and a 5k run.

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Matt Pond celebrates 10th anniversary of Emblems at Underground Arts

Matt Pond / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Matt Pond / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

“We’re going to play an album,” Matt Pond tells a Philly crowd in the colorful low lights of a basement room. “And it goes something like this.” The singer and songwriter then launched straight into Emblems’ opening track, “KC.”

It’s been 10 years, down to the month, since the release of the haunting Matt Pond PA album Emblems. And now 5 full-lengths, 7 EPs, 9 singles, and a name strip-down later, the band is briefly slipping back on the “PA” for a May-long, mini North American tour. Coming back to its early roots Friday night, Matt Pond and his band – who were based in Philly once upon a time – celebrated the album’s 10th anniversary with a three band bill at Underground Arts.

First to the stage was Philly’s rising folk rock group Rosu Lup. Backed by strings and light orchestrations, the core trio blends beautiful Americana-esque harmonies with the powerful elegance of cello, violins, and a bit of trumpet. Giving the audience all that they had, Rosu Lup played an ethereal set complete with tunes off of their recent Currents EP, a cover of Matt Pond’s “Brooklyn Fawn,” and a well-received cello solo. Although their inspirations seem to be somewhat eclectic, Rosu Lup’s dynamic orchestrations stitch together a variety of thoughts and sounds seamlessly. I’m not one to catch too many trends before they happen, but this is definitely a band you should keep your ears on.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
The Lighthouse and the Whaler / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

Next, Ohio pop-folk quad The Lighthouse and the Whaler took over the stage with their jaunty tunes and knee-bouncing energy. Touring alongside Matt Pond for the 10th anniversary, the band brought along a violin / keyboard floater who added in a certain oomph to their already-invigorating blend of mandolins, glockenspiels, guitars, and drums. Getting the crowd on their toes while keeping on his own, lead singer Michael LoPresti lead the band through a series of tunes including the title track off of their 2012 album This is an Adventure. With a sound similar to The Last Bison and Lord Huron, this is one band you don’t want to miss next time they’re in town.

Finally Matt Pond took to the stage, humbled that so many fans came out to support the tour and their upcoming happenings. “It’s like ‘people know this stuff?’” Pond tells me bewildered while shaking hands after the show. But when it comes to knowing Matt Pond’s work, Philly knows it to a tee. “I’m going home, back to New Hampshire. I’m so determined. I’m so determined…” the crowd sang long in awe as Pond and his band flawlessly played though the “honest dose of melancholy” album, as Paste Magazine described Pond in 2004. To complete the nostalgic show, the band came back to the stage for a four song encore including “Love to Get Used” from their 2013 release The Lives Inside the Lives In Your Hands.

As a ‘thank you’ to all of his listeners, Pond recently released Skeletons and Friends via Noisetrade. “It’s an album of brightened corners and beautifully incomplete sentences. It’s the structure and skeleton of what’s to come,” Pond describes, which is the perfect way to describe the framework tracks in my opinion.

Check out and reminisce with the photo gallery and set list from Friday’s show below.

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