The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand by Matt Pond (BMG, 2013. 36 minutes)
Since 1998, Matt Pond has recorded 8 full-length and 8 EP records with a wide variety of collaborating musicians.
Sound Is Brand
There comes a time for any musician when he or she must decide on a sound. Music, as an avenue for creativity, can be represented in a panoply of sound. On any given day, a musician could write a folk song, a rock song, a techno song, even on orchestral piece. But imagine a record with such a wide variety of tunes. It wouldn’t feel complete; it might even cause frustration as it jumps around without rhyme or reason.
Bluntly, sound is brand. A musician’s voice, and the way she organizes instruments, represent who that person is. It may seem obvious that Metallica has a different sound than Simon & Garfunkel, but this sound also functions as a foundation for future creativity. Does a new composition fit the brand? If it does, include it on the next record. If not, discard it for a side project or solo work.
However, it seems as if certain indie bands completely reject this notion. They might have a loosely defined sound, but any thought toward tightening up this sound into a discernible brand is considered selling out.
These thoughts frame my understanding of Matt Pond’s latest release, The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand.
The Matt Pond Brand
Over a 15-year career, Pond’s sound has included some discernible features: a higher registered, ever so slightly wailing voice and up-tempo songs with an acoustic base. Yet I’ve also found Pond’s sound to be underdeveloped—all the building blocks are there but it felt as if more attention to detail would bring everything together.
Well, with The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, that attention to detail has finally arrived.
The album shines brightest with its up-tempo tracks. Songs like, “Let Me Live,” “When the Moon Brings the Silver,” and “The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand” emit danceable beats, infectious melodies, and an all-around joyful experience.
In these songs, Pond utilizes a four-on-the-floor kick beat and catchy acoustic chord progressions as a central tenet to his brand.
Lyrically, the songs exhibit a been-there-before worldliness as if Pond’s relationships have completed many orbits. In the first single, “Love to Get Used,” Pond croons,
“In Athabasca / we set a fire / to the world we left far behind / all the faces we put away / lost lives float into space”
In this song and many others, Pond places experience in life and relationships as a defining part of his brand.
Even more than general tempos and lyrical themes, The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand holds an unsurpassable attention to detail. Often when I listen to a song, I mourn missed opportunities to add subtle atmospheric textures or melodic counterpoints. It’s easy for a musician to create the basic foundation to a song and the hook in the melody, calling it good; it’s much more difficult to build from that foundation and add involute sounds to transform a song from good to great.
Pond, on this record, added these subtleties. Whether a guitar countermelody, an atmospheric synth, or some basso continuo, Pond takes the time to sharpen his brand.
Worth Its Weight
For this reason, I thoroughly enjoy The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand. If you are interested in upbeat, acoustic based indie rock with catchy melodies and a high attention to detail, grab this record.
Verdict: 4 out of 5