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Friday, June 14, 2024

‘The Lives Inside the Lines’: Matt Pond embraces sadness

Before you read this album review, I should explain something: I am a huge Matt Pond fan. I discovered Matt Pond about six years ago in my years between high school and college.

This was before I lived in Gainesville, in my first apartment behind an interstate. I worked as a bartender serving heavy-handed Jack and Coke’s to depressed 40-somethings who mistook my desperation for their money as an interest in their sex lives. (Really, I couldn’t care less about how cheating on your wife validates your masculinity.)

In those shapeless years, I was young and terrified and convinced the rest of my life would be spent smiling at people I hated with every fiber in my body. And then I heard Pond’s 2005 song, “So Much Trouble,” and recognized this feeling was ubiquitous among directionless teenage bums. Pond became a band through which I sought refuge.

Pond’s talent as a songwriter lies in his ability to lull his listeners into a previous state. His music is ripe with reverie, and when it’s on, you can’t help but remember feelings of adolescent hunger, uncertainty and being alone, alone, alone, alone and alone. But my question is this: What happens when you start to feel better?

The latest album is “The Lives Inside the Lines In Your Hand.”

The album’s opening is promising enough, with a deluge of “whoa-oh-whoa-oh’s,” and Pond’s unfailingly familiar electric mellowness — you feel like you’re listening to a dying tree sing you songs about the fall. And this, of course, is wonderful, until you realize you heard these songs last fall, and the fall before that, and so on.

For the long-term Pond fans, “Lives Inside the Lines,” feels more like compulsion than sincerity. After fifteen years of writing music, Pond returns to what he’s used to: animated melancholy.

Although I still love the music, I think my disappointment stems from wanting to hear a warmer perspective from Pond, especially as the colder months dwindle to their trifling Floridian end.

Still, all is not lost. There are four songs worth putting on your iPhone or iPod for a walk around the neighborhood while the weather is still winter-ish. “Let Me Live,” “Love to Get Used,” “Go Where the Leaves Go” and the title song, “The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand,” still ring nostalgically of Pond’s ability to say something new in a bittersweet way.

While I’m not crazy about the new album, I’m still a fan of the band. If you’ve never listened to Pond, the four aforementioned songs aren’t a bad place to start — or finish, depending on how you look at it.

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