Given the serene setting summoned up by its title, it’s not surprising to find Matt Pond PA‘s Still Summer opting for a decidedly wistful gaze. This, the band’s twelfth album and apparent sequel to last year’s Winter Lives, finds Matt Pond, the group’s front man, founder and namesake, veering dreamily between an upward glance and meditative reflection. Mostly though, it basks in unapologetic nostalgia, recalling the joys of a now distant time when things seemed as carefree as the cover photo itself, one which captures a group of boys cannonballing into a canal without a worry in the world.
While the overall ambiance of Still Summer might seem at odds with the icier notions of its predecessor, it still remains consistent with an approach that the band has taken since the beginning. Despite the many members who have come and gone over the years, Pond and producer/guitarist/engineer Christopher Hansen continue to combine supple, melodic and generally affecting soundscapes with textured tones and richly suggestive imagery. Superior songs and effortless arrangements make Matt Pond PA clear contenders within the lushest environs of a folk/rock habitat, which makes Pond’s recent announcement that this will likely be the group’s final outing both sad and bittersweet.
That said, it’s all the more appropriate that the new album lowers its gaze with songs that peer towards the future while reflecting so dreamily on the past. Adopting a kind of nuanced, yet cinematic style, it wraps its themes in carefree nostalgia, lucid daydreams and sepia tinted snapshots of times gone by. Everyday dissonance is relegated to the shadows with a narrative that desperately clings to an all too temporary, half-forgotten past. “I won’t let go,” Pond declares on the title track, but the tug of war between past and present remains ever constant throughout.
Likewise, Pond PA express that longing through a shimmering sound that allows their intents to simmer just below the surface. Breezy ballads such as “Street Squirrels,” “Still Summer,” “Legends Before the Fall,” “The Full Stops” and the effortlessly engaging “Canada” find the meditative musings taking on a life of their own. “Let’s remember flying through trees,” Pond sings on “Union Square. “Disappearing/Let’s remember how it could be.” Despite the song’s relentless rhythm, there’s a serenity, a longing, a sense of passion and purpose that makes that desire to reconnect with past through the present all the more urgent and expressive. In these troubled times, it’s one discourse to which we all can relate.