After eight albums and a host of EP’s, Matt Pond drops the PA from his band’s name and goes the solo route with his new one, The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand. matt pond PA was always more of a collective anyways, numerous players coming and going between each release, with Chris Hansen the only other truly consistent member. Funnily enough Hansen is also utilized on this album, as are a host of other musicians, so let’s call this what it really is. Pond is on a major label now and it’s his show, so to avoid any confusion, the PA is gone.
He certainly has every right to do so. Many artists reach a point in their career where a fresh start is desired, be it new collaborators, a new name or just going solo. So what does this do for the music on the new album? A number of these tracks were previously released, albeit in different versions, so for followers of Pond’s music, there is some familiarity here. Pond released a free EP on Noisetrade before this album’s release featuring stripped down, acoustic versions of three of the tracks, including first single “Love To Get Used”. Much to my surprise, the lovely acoustic ballad is a full-on jumping pop anthem here and it works even better. It certainly shows Pond has a knack for a killer chorus and it’s the best song on the album.
Album opener “Let Me Live” comes close to matching “Love To Get Used” with another infectious hook, but therein lies part of the problem with The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand. It is front loaded with the best material and can’t maintain the momentum built early on. “Go Where The Leaves Go” brings back some of the twangy guitar that was prevalent in many of my favorite matt pond PA tracks and “Human Beings” has that same feel, but there is an obvious attempt to take his sound in a poppier direction and it doesn’t always work. “Hole In My Heart” and “Bring Back The Orchestra” are average to these ears, I prefer the more complex arrangements and deeper lyrics of the earlier material that first drew me to Pond’s music.
The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand is a mixed bag at best. There are enough good songs here to make it worthwhile if you’re a fan of Matt Pond’s music, but for newcomers I’d suggest starting with earlier works like Several Arrows Later or the last album credited to the matt pond PA name, 2010’s wonderful The Dark Leaves.