Matt Pond PA has been O.C.’d — their latest album Several Arrows Later is the quintessential Mischa Barton of chamber pop. Like Barton, it’s sold and marketed itself as a sort of faux tragedy meets indie hybrid, with themes intricate enough to initially catch your attention, though ultimately failing to deliver anything with enough substance to fully penetrate reality, much less hit you where it hurts. It’s essentially what happens when emo sells out.
Melancholy and beautiful, with expressive vocals and a nice sense of fluidity, the record strikes numerous keys near perfectly, yet nothing is sharp enough to sting. It’s catchy yet intimate, with all 12 tracks feeling primed for sound-tracking any emotionally overwrought life — it’s just that when this moment does hit, the listener still can’t help but feel shorted. The album’s an arc without a climax, almost afraid to venture outside the careful commercial bubble it’s clearly formed for itself. While musically and emotionally satisfying in a superficial way, its core still feels somewhat subdued, with its big Barton doe-eyes perpetually trapped behind the glass of a vast, glossy screen.