Have you ever felt an artist belongs to a specific season of the year? We music reviewers tend to throw the “summery song” or “warm hit of the season” thing around from time to time, bestowing a weird blessing to the music that gets us to wear Birkenstocks, bad Acapulco shirts, and knock-off Ray-bans.
Reviewing doesn’t pay. At all.
Anyways, if we assume music reviewers are right and musicians belong to certain seasons, like produce, then Matt Pond PA will always remind me of Autumn. Specifically, from September 20th until November 15th. Why so specific? Because those dates, back in the distant 2005, are when I got to listen to this band for the first time. It was a weird time for me, freelancing like an idiot, trying to write a novel about depressed thirty-somethings, and consuming vast quantities of Rilo Kiley. A random download opened the door for me: it was the low-key ‘Holiday Road’ cover, off his Winter Songs EP.
Through the years, every Autumn I would fall into pile of leaves, listening to Matt Pond PA‘s most recent album during the season. Like a fine wine, it always paired well with the shorter days, cooler winds, and purple and mauve sunsets. The band had an specific colour to its music and if we want to mention synesthesia, I think orange, brown, and light yellows would be the hues of the breezy chords emanating from each song.
With apprehension, I read a most dreadful line in the promo description: “last full-length album.” You know the four stages and I guess for a while, I didn’t want to stomach listening to the Still Summer. Curiosity tempted me at every turn, but listening would meant the end was here. Like the end of a relationship that no longer works, I tried to ignore it. Then I heard one of the songs from Still Summer. ‘Rabbit’.
Swelling synths, an upbeat rhythm, that gosh-darning-cute-as-hell video. I couldn’t resist and plunged into Still Summer, a murky river that is deep enough for the dive, but might have pieces of rusted metal trapped in the sediments or might even be full of deadly alligators.
The splash was loud, the water was cold, then time stopped. Sure, it’s been a warm Autumn and introspection always arrives loud and clear this time of year. Still Summer hits the spot and that’s no lie. The remnants of summer are truly gone, swept away like flotsam and jetsam in the incessant river flow. ‘Street Squirrels’ welcomes sweater season, ignoring pumpkin spice whatever, loosing itself into tangerine skies and ever so eternal magic hours.
Tinges of old songs come back, surfacing from time to time. The state of gold ‘don’t look down’ might be getting a shout in a couple of places, the weird intimacy of Emblems comes ’round for another wild fling. Above all, the reflective moods hinted in Skeletons and Friends pulsates through every note, every whisper, every single of Matt Pond‘s wistful vocals.
It would be a disservice to single out tracks here, a sin I think I’ve done in here and many reviews past. Still Summer is one of those rare album experiences: all tracks must be listened. Ignore one and the thread will unravel, leaving you naked to the bitter cold. Twist my arm and I would say: start with ‘Union Square’, chase it with ‘The Full Stop’. Then pour yourself your fave hot drink and sink into the neat piles of leaves. The world is loud and cruel, here’s a place of restoration.
‘Saint Catherine’s Creek’ is a chilling ending. Like the ambient sounds enveloping a lost interview, sandbars turning into quicksand are discussed. The change of the season (“summer, summer, still summer, and winter”) brings an introspective ending. It fits with the fall: before the madness of winter holidays and the hangover from summer, fall is the best season to regroup and plan after careful self-assessments.
Still Summer offers a bittersweet treat. It tackles many of Matt Pond PA‘s wonderful arsenal of musical tricks, and we’ve grown to love them. But it’s also a swansong, the very last Matt Pond PA ever (unless we somehow change his mind). If it is, it’s a fitting farewell: Summer always ends, but remains in our memories. And so does the entire catalogue of Matt Pond PA will linger in our memories: like an brownish orange leaf floating forever in the neverending autumn of our minds.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López