New Hampshire native Matt Pond formed the band Matt Pond PA in the late '90s while living in Philadelphia. Not much romance to it, but that straightforward attitude is typical of the singer-songwriter's career. Since 2000, Pond and his changing lineup have released five albums of chamber-pop, culminating last fall in the group's most solid yet, Several Arrows Later, featuring clear-cut relationship songs colored by undulating cello and neatly picked guitar. For his fans, Pond's skill with sad, sweet, low-key tunes has inspired something approaching awe, because essentially his band sounds like what emo kids want to be when they grow up--sensitive but grounded. Plenty of other critics, however, have smelled a lie in this maturity: Pond's music is too clean, shorn not only of excess emotion but also unexpected insight, humor, maybe even recognizable personality. No one denies that his band plays catchy music, however, and for this pre-SXSW concert, its members may well loosen those understated neckties they wear as tight as a noose.
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