As we hurtle toward September, Matt Pond PA is here to get nostalgic and grip tightly to the last couple of weeks of August (and the final stint as a group) with Still Summer. Still Summer is a 14-track album, the band’s twelfth full-length release and likely their last as a band (Matt Pond will drop the “PA” and go solo.) Their final release is indie pop-rock that has a little new wave and lots of guest vocalists, leaving listeners thinking about summers past but not feeling anything too deeply.
With a name like Still Summer, it’s not all that surprising that the lyrics are full of reminiscing about risky behavior with an old crush, thinking about what will happen to rabbits he sees in the street, and ruminating on past relationships. Seems like the end of summer: questioning where the season went, looking back on the memories made. “Saint Catherine’s Creek” takes the reminiscing a step further: it’s basically an oral history from a lady about doing risky things on the Mississippi River over synth. Don’t let the nostalgia factor get you down – the most nostalgic songs are also the catchiest. “Still Summer,” “Rabbit,” and “Union Square” each use synth and delve into new wave territory. “Still Summer” promises not to let go of summer memories, “Union Square” asks to remember how it could be, all while they both harken back to the late ‘80s.
There are a few ambient instrumental songs. “The Backyard” is a perfect representation of a rural backyard in the summer, with those mysterious noises of which no one really knows the source (probably a choir of bugs, but we may never know for sure. It’s dark out there.) As I was reviewing on an August evening, I realized that the same noises were coming from my own backyard and were drowning out the samples in the song – it’s too real! Of course, the song has the sample sounds washing in and out like waves and adds synth to build drama. It doesn’t add much drama though, as these are the relaxing night sounds that will lull rural folk to sleep (and drive city folk up the wall.) “Legends After the Fall” and “Legends Before the Fall” (which appear in that order, with a few songs in between) don’t quite pack the drama that they probably should, though it was a good artistic choice to put them in this order and hide the slight hopefulness of “Before” until after the slightly sombre “After,” and letting us compare the two.
There is more to this album than synth: the guitar really gets to shine throughout. “The Ballad of Laura and Mike” is a pleasant back-and-forth between two people in a long-distance relationship after Laura moves to California and Mike stays on the East Coast, featuring guitar solos. “Street Squirrels” has delicate guitar and a cello. “Canada” has some neat guitar in a very relaxed song that questions how a relationship didn’t work out.
Still Summer is a lovely listen, though not the most moving. It’s missing that dramatic edge that could make you really feel something on the songs that you know are supposed to make you feel something. The new wave-ish songs are all catchy, though, and deserve a listen.
I would be remiss if I ended this review without mentioning my most glaring issue with the album: “Street Squirrels.” The song is a little dull, but I could live with that. The issue is that Matt Pond seems to be looking to squirrels for life advice. I’ve been around a lot of squirrels and trust me, none of them are fit to be life coaches. Stick to reminiscing about the nearly-finished summer and ignore the bit about the squirrels running into the street without regard for safety.