Matt Pond’s sound is pure chamber pop: introspective and literate, backed up by lush string arrangements and delivered with classical music formality. Pond (who dropped the PA of his former band Matt Pond PA) toils in semi-obscurity, despite 10 full-length records and an impressive array of EPs.
With his first solo release, 2013’s The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, the intellectual instrumentation is gone; the French horns and cellos are largely absent. What remains is Pond’s contemplative voice and romantic phrasing, recalling Peter Gabriel’s vulnerable and ragged tenor. When it’s backed up with an athletic ’80s beat, like album opener “Love to Get Used” — which may just feature the chorus of the year — Pond has rarely sounded better or more self-assured.
The record sustains a hot-streak through its first half. “Let Me Live” is synth-flavored and catchy, and overall Pond avoids the pitfalls plaguing him throughout his career, namely the inability to get out of his own head — particularly with ballads. His zingers have always zinged, but slow numbers plod, like “Bring Back The Orchestra” from Lives Inside. Pond’s sensitive side sometimes comes across aloof and the melodies are hampered by a nagging sameness.
While Lives Inside stumbles a bit in the back half (save the fantastic, danceable “Hole In My Heart” and the Tears For Fears/Peter Gabriel sound-alike that shares the album title), it is probably this woefully underrated songwriter’s best work to date.
Matt Pond plays with Jake Bellows and Tyler Fortier 8 pm Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Cozmic; $8 adv., $10 door.