Last Light, the newest installment from Philadelphia’s Matt Pond PA, is unsurprisingly unsurprising. Pond acts as producer for the first time in the nearly ten-year history of this band, and he enlisted a field of talent that includes Neko Case, Rob Schnapf (Elliot Smith, Beck), Thom Monahan (Pernice Brothers, Lilys), John O’Mahoney (Metric), Taylor Locke (Rooney), Isobel Sollenberger (Bardo Pond), and Mike Stroud (Ratatat). So it was doubly disappointing that what we get here is what we’ve come to expect from Matt Pond PA: more of the same.
In opener “Last Light,” Pond sings, “In the end we can see perfect endlessness/ When we’re gone, when we’re gone, when we’re gone.” The lyrics fit the mood, with the warm melody weaving its way around the optimistically gloomy song. But it’s a misleading preamble to the voyage ahead. Featuring Neko Case, “Taught to Look Away” has the most potential here, but it becomes the most frustrating, because Case’s soothing vocal contribution is cut far too short to pick up any of Pond’s slack. Likewise, “Wild Girl” ends before it even begins.
With sprightly handclaps over feelings of despair, “Sunlight” is the most memorable of the thirteen-track album, and it allows a slight breath of relief before diving right back into same-old Matt Pond PA. And “Until the East Coast Ends,” the only song carried over from If You Want Blood, is a huge letdown. The best song on the EP is stripped down by almost four minutes, robbing the song of its depth, sincerity, honest emotional connection.
Pond is a good singer, songwriter and musician, and Last Light has sincere moments and catchy hooks. But his band is bland. Last Light contains fine songwriting and production and collaborations, but it offers little new. It slowly fades, then quietly disappears.