Matt Pond: Southern Comfort

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Sick of snow days, a rejuvenated Matt Pond finds his legs in the Sunshine State

“Love To Get Used” (download):

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It wasn’t a near-death experience, but it was enough to compel Matt Pond to hit the reset button. “I broke my leg on tour over a year ago,” says the newly emancipated, New Hampshire-bred frontguy for the ever-morphing outfit Matt Pond PA. “My drummer and I were benignly wrestling, and he put his knee right through my leg. It was in Pontiac, Mich., right across the street from an orthopedic hospital, which was good.”

Shaken by the freak occurrence and the ensuing surgery, Pond finished out the tour sitting down, then headed to St. Augustine, Fla., to convalesce with friends. Once there, he quickly took to the funky, historic northeast Florida town’s laid-back lifestyle and Southern lilt. Pond moved from Philadelphia to Brooklyn 10 years ago. And while family ties (he’s a preacher’s son) will always bring him back to the Northeast, he might just stay put for a while.

“Now I know why so many people come here; there are so many beautiful interior areas that people don’t even know about,” he says. “I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

A rejuvenated sheen permeates The Lives Inside The Lines Of Your Hands (BMG)—especially the new album’s ebullient first half, which commences with a pair of buff companion pieces, “Let Me Live” and “Love To Get Used To.” Pond partnered for a second time with producer Chris Hansen, recording in various locales, including Philadelphia, Florida, Bearsville, N.Y., and Austin.

“We couldn’t really see what it was until we started mixing it this summer,” he says. “It was just such a mess—a manic vision of going in full motion, and then being shut down.”

It isn’t so much that Pond has abandoned the autumnal, inward-delving perspective that pervaded 2010’s The Dark Leaves, or his long-established penchant for overt melancholy (see “Hole In My Heart” and “Human Beings”). But he has given both a thorough airing out with a blast of smog-free, temperate air.

“I’ve always been a sucker for lushness,” says Pond, who admits that the early, sedate stages of his recovery lent themselves to some excessive noodling. “When you’re motionless, your mind is more in motion. I couldn’t even grasp the album when it was done. Mix dysmorphia has got to be a real condition. It can be kind of confusing trying to wrangle all those tracks.”

On his ninth LP in 15 years, Pond worked with Hansen to give his folk-tinged chamber pop a more a percussive impact, and it sounds like he’s finally made a lasting peace with keyboards. The arrangements are more straightforward, even as their sonic environments are more expansive and nuanced.

The Dark Leaves was recorded in a (Bearsville) cabin,” says Pond. “This album started there, but we decided we weren’t going to settle for those claustrophobic sounds. The album started getting bigger and bigger.”

The Lives Inside sounds like a breakthrough (whatever that’s worth these days). Pond has been associated with the term before; three years ago, to be exact, when the Matt Pond PA track “Snow Day” was used for a series of Starbucks commercials.

“It’s not about coffee, but if people like it in that form, that’s fine,” he says. “People can assume all sorts of things by the choices you make. I try not to worry about it too much.”

Pond addresses the recent deletion of the “PA” from his moniker with the same healthy pragmatism. “As I moved further and further away from Pennsylvania, it seemed to make less and less sense,” he says. “I’ve played with some great people, but the band dynamic is tough—everyone gets a vote. Now, there are no limitations to what I do.”

—Hobart Rowland

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