A lush, richly textured affair made unique by Matt Pond's expressive vocal and an unerring knack for crafting memorable songs, matt pond PA's first record for Altitude is much in the same vein as the group's last record for Polyvinyl. A notch or two better than The Nature of Maps, Emblems doesn't emphasize hook-filled pop tunes, but rather the kind of songs that creep into your heart and reside there like warm memories. Pond sounds rejuvenated here. The music is livelier and almost exuberant at times, and certainly more varied that on the last album, which at times seemed to collapse into a melancholic torpor. The band has a meatier sound; tracks like "Closest (Look Out)" and "Claire" work up a rocking head of steam, the melodies are sharper and there are a bunch of really catchy choruses. It sounds like the work of a man in love, still sad at times but able to express a wider range of emotion. That's not to say the record forsakes the fragile beauty of previous albums as tracks like the achingly pristine "Summer (Butcher Two)" and the lilting "Lily Two" show that Pond's chamber pop standard mastery of arrangement and dynamics is still intact. Don't call it a comeback; call it a triumphant return to the glory of The Green Fury. And call it some of the finest emotionally charged chamber pop you are liable to hear in 2004.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra