It’s entirely possible that I’m the wrong person to review this record. Matt Pond has been churning out music since the ’90s, and I could never fully devote myself to it, but you know—I liked that Neutral Milk Hotel cover. Didn’t everyone? Pond’s albums may not have rearranged my world, but they weren’t boring, and his experience and songwriting ability put him in my mind as a capable guy whose music was always worth checking out. Now, I am perplexed: The straightforward pop of The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand must be targeting an audience I’m not a part of, as I’m not sure it made me feel a thing.

There are loads of modern indie band conventions peppered about: four-to-the-floor kick drum, fuzz bass, sunny synth textures paired with chiming clean guitars, an obligatory song with banjo. The new wave tilt and relentless beat of “Go Where The Leaves Go” feel inspired, as does the soaring chorus in “Love To Get Used,” but standout band moments are infrequent—arrangements are detailed and pretty, but too uneventful to be anything but a pleasant backdrop for Pond’s vocals. It’s difficult to find the words for how I feel about this album’s lyrics, so perhaps I should just be frank: They’re heavy-handed, stuffed with clichés, and always delivered with the same affectation. A remarkable voice like Pond’s feels lost on all this generic soap. There’s a sort of believable quality on older releases like Emblems that is, on this romcom-ready soundtrack, nowhere to be found.

Songs like the title-track swing dramatically for the fences, but for me, this was an unrewarding listen that felt distant and bereft of anything daring. I doubt Pond expects that reducing his sound into safe rock-pop is the way to get another slice of sync-license pie (written to quiet my inner cynic). More likely, the grind of recording and touring has culminated in a pleasant-sounding snooze from a hard-working vet—certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

In A Word: Uninspiring

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  1. Scott

    Well it was bound to happen. Unlike yourself, I actually own and get into most all of this man’s work. Even the dark leaves, which I didn’t enjoy upon first listen, grew on me and I really like that one. Unfortunately, the new album is by FAR my least fav recording of his…..I don’t think it needed to be more daring per se. It’s just that the songs sound watered down and as a whole the record sounds like an unfocused attempt at appeasing the new major label as well as a more mainstream audience. It says something that the first single off the album(and the records best track imo) was already released on an ep in spring of 2011! I love Mr Pond’s music and songwriting ability(check out Nature of Maps), but I think you summed this up perfectly, unispiring….oh well…


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