Originally formed in Philadelphia (hence the PA), Matt Pond PA is a New York band with a unique sound featuring expansive melodies, shiny choruses and poignant string arrangements, all held together with the always-genial voice and reflective prose of the band’s leader, Matt Pond. At once uplifting and heart wrenching, Matt Pond PA songs have a way of reminding the listener to notice the beauty in the things often overlooked, which serves as a kind of metaphor for the band itself. To say that Matt Pond PA have a cult following would be an understatement. While they might not be quite mainstream, they’ve enjoyed features on the musically-revered TV show The OC and a long-running Starbucks commercial. Attend any of their shows and you’ll find troves of fans, many who have followed them for a decade or more. And this year, the band funded their new album, The State of Gold, via an entirely crowd-sourced Pledge campaign that far surpassed its initial goal. Matt Pond PA are band that makes music for the joy of the art, heart that comes through in all ten studio albums to date. The State of Gold is magic number ten, and it finds Matt Pond PA exploring wilder places, both musically and lyrically, than ever before. NPR’s First Listen called Matt Pond an “old-fashioned troubadour above all”, a title he embraces. Pond wrote The State of Gold in fits of inspiration throughout 2014, following a battle with writer’s block that had him questioning his place in the music world. The new album introduces sleeker production chops and more assertive percussion with synthetic undercurrents that highlight the characteristic simplicity of the songs. However, TSOG is still very much a MPPA album at its core, delving into the space between hope and hopelessness, a place that Matt Pond traverses like no other.
Sounds like: Rogue Wave, Sea Wolf, Benjamin Gibbard
WEDNESDAY: Field Report
“The body remembers what the mind forgets,” Chris Porterfield reminisces on his acclaimed band Field Report’s sophomore record, Marigolden. The record is strewn with references to the inevitable tolls taken by the passage of time, and prolonged distance from home and loved ones. The past couple of years have flashed by for Porterfield, who was thrust into the spotlight after years of musical reclusion. His Milwaukee-based band, Field Report (an anagram of his surname), was culled together in the studio while recording their 2012 self-titled debut. [...] The band honed itself from a septet to a quartet in the year that followed, focusing its sound and tightening the screws. With a heavy batch of songs under their arms, they retreated to snowy Ontario in December 2013 to record their sophomore album, Marigolden, with the help of producer Robbie Lackritz (Feist). Spending two years roaming around the country playing tiny venues and sold-out amphitheaters alike, Porterfield was uncertain whether he was leading the charge toward an artistic epiphany or headed down a misguided path of self-destruction. Marigolden reflects this, as he ruminates across homesick tension and an un-grounded anxiety. But rather than wallow in melancholy, Porterfield finds solace and inspiration through his songs, which reveal themselves as uplifting and celebratory. The album is brighter than their 2012 debut, but somehow remains just as elegantly ominous. [...] The album runs the musical gamut, from the Traveling Wilburys-esque pop of “Home,” to the Neil Young-inspired piano ballad “Ambrosia,” to the electronic sonic landscape of “Wings.” While the compositions express a wide range in terms of genre, they find unity in themselves within the limits of self-imposed minimalism. In the studio, the songs were stripped down to the bones and built back up using only their essential elements. Sequestered in a seemingly never-ending Ontario blizzard, the band only broke from this musical process to add logs to the stove, with the snow and the fire providing a proper background for music so rooted in the elemental. The effect that this fundamentals-based approach achieves is universal: the sparse arrangements and common themes speak to everyone, but somehow feel tailored to each listener. The title itself reflects this, a portmanteau of two common images (marigold and golden) to create something that feels both idiosyncratic and familiar: Marigolden.
Sounds like: Mount Moriah, Buxton, The Barr Brothers
THURSDAY: Neil Young's 70th Birthday Party
Local musicians Rich Mattson, Jim Gruidl, Glen Mattson, and Dale Kallman bring you a night of Neil Young tunes to celebrate the artist's 70th birthday. Come listen to the classics.
Sounds like: Bob Dylan, The Band, Buffalo Springfield
FRIDAY: Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers
Arizona-bred singer/songwriter Roger Clyne first made a name for himself while fronting the Refreshments during the post-grunge heyday of the '90s. "Banditos" was the quartet's biggest hit, an invitingly cheeky pop anthem that splashed the group's Southwestern-tinged music across mainstream and college radio during the summer of 1996. True national success fell short for the band, however, and the Refreshments called it quits in 1998 after two albums on the Mercury label. Clyne retreated to his Southwestern abode in Arizona to reflect, found himself tinkering around with Americana and Latin influences, and began playing acoustic shows around his hometown of Tempe. Soon, he and several veterans of the local scene grouped together as Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers. Embracing his reflective side, not to mention his country influences, Clyne molded a new musical creation. He, along with former Refreshments drummer P.H. Naffah, ex-Dead Hot Workshop guitarist Steve Larson, bassist Danny White, and ex-Gin Blossoms guitarist Scott Johnson, introduced a twangy hard rock on 1999's Honky Tonk Union. Released on the band's own label, Emma Java Recordings, the album debuted in the Top Ten of the Billboard Internet Sales charts. Shows throughout the Southwest and Mexico kept the band busy -- busy enough to issue a top-notch live album, Real to Reel, in fall 2001.
Clyne took his lyrical poetics a step further for the band's second studio effort. Sonoran Hope & Madness, which was released in February 2002, combined a sultry mix of country and folk while sifting through Clyne's visions of nature encumbered by human recklessness. Americano followed in 2004, featuring a slimmed-down band (Johnson had since left to join the reunited Gin Blossoms) whose rugged take on heartland rock had grown steadily more cohesive since its late-'90s debut. Following those recording sessions, White left the group to pursue work as a Nashville producer and was replaced by former Gloritone bassist Nick Scropos. The new lineup immediately hit the road, and the band released one of its more raucous shows as Live at Billy Bob's in 2005 before issuing the Four Unlike Before EP the following year. No More Beautiful World, which toned down the band's rollicking style in favor of mariachi beats and humorous narratives, was released in 2007. That winter, the Peacemakers decamped to Mexico to write and record a wealth of material in eight straight days. Daily video installments broadcast their efforts on the Internet, allowing the group's audience to watch the eight songs take shape. Turbo Ocho collected the resulting tunes (along with three others) and was released in the spring of 2008, marking Larson's last appearance with the group. Guitarist Jim Dalton replaced him in early 2009, and the new lineup unveiled itself on the road, touring heavily for two years before releasing Unida Cantina in 2011. [Billboard]
Sounds like: The Bottle Rockets, Old 97's, Gear Daddies
SATURDAY: Elephant Revival (SOLD OUT)
The five souls in Elephant Revival are Sage Cook (banjo, guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo, bass and fiddle); Bridget Law (fiddle, octave fiddle); Bonnie Paine (washboard, djembe, musical saw, stompbox); Daniel Rodriguez (guitar, banjo, bass); and Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo). All share vocals and write songs. Paine delivers additional beats via foot stomps on plywood, her stockinged feet doing near jigs as her hands, encased in antique leather gloves, rub silver nickel against corrugated metal. This Nederland, Colorado quintet are, needless to say, quite a sound to be experienced - especially when they fall into the pocket of a groove containing elements of gypsy, rock, Celtic, alt-country and folk. "Where words fail… music speaks." That simple line atop Elephant Revival's Facebook page contains only five words, but reveals volumes about the band's reason for being. Music unites us in ways that no other medium can. Even when we don't understand one another's languages - we can be moved by a rhythm, soothed by a song. Brought together by a unified sense of purpose - the spirit of five souls working as one, in harmony, creating sounds they could never produce alone.
Sounds like: Shook Twins, Sarah Jarosz, Punch Brothers
SUNDAY: Nikki Lane (moved from Fine Line)
For her hotly anticipated sophomore album, Nashville songstress Nikki Lane teamed up with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys for a record that turns the vulnerable singer-songwriter stereotype on its ears. With songs that crucify ex-boyfriends, celebrate one-night stands (as long as she can bolt town right after) and proclaim that it’s “always the right time to do the wrong thing,” Lane comes across like a modern-era Wanda Jackson, albeit with more oats to sow. “My songs always paint a pretty clear picture of what’s been going on in my life, so this is one moody record,” she says. “There’s lots of talk of misbehaving and moving on.” All or Nothin’ was released via New West Records in 2014.
Sounds like: Lydia Loveless, Robert Ellis, Hurray For The Riff Raff
Blog by Gina Reis