Matt pond PA released seven albums, six EPs, and six singles during their first decade together. It was a prolific streak rivaled only by the likes of Ryan Adams, another overachiever with a flair for lush, mellow rock tunes. Adams made a habit of exploring other genres, though -- often bouncing between garage, folk, and traditional country with each release -- while Matt Pond seemed content to write variations of the same song. The Dark Leaves features ten new variations, all of them plushy pleasant and entirely familiar.
Of course, there’s something to be said for consistency -- matt pond PA have become quite good at sounding like matt pond PA, and The Dark Leaves offers everything that fans have come to expect, from the requisite cello lines to Pond’s Everyman vocals. The cover art hints at something pastoral, and there is an outdoorsy element to these songs, many of which mine a rootsy mix of strings, lap steel, and acoustic guitar. A reliance on keyboard ambience and midtempo percussion effectively kills any sense of twang, though, and “Specks” is one of the only tracks to truly realize the breezy, ‘70s Cali-country sound that the cover art evokes. Pond still fills his lyrics with snark and deadpan cynicism, a move that gives complexity to his otherwise soothing music, but even that has gotten old by now, and The Dark Leaves rarely distinguishes itself from the music that came before it.