Created during their time in quarantine, Matt Pond PA’s Songs of Disquiet is a passable album despite generally struggling to impress. Presenting four originals and four covers–including two versions of the Thermals’ “A Pillar of Salt”–the project shows us Matt and band in a more comfortable relationship with folktronica. Opening with “The Start,” we hear spacey layering that cascades in the background as Matt intimately sings about disaster: “you barely left your blankets to see your neighbor’s house on fire.” While this track is enjoyable, it quickly becomes a weakly shining high-point considering songs like the short “Wild Strawberries,” a watery and instrumental acoustic guitar piece without much character. Adding the band’s disposable covers, Songs of Disquiet begins to feel more like the group was engaging in a fun pass-time rather than trying to craft an album.
The project’s first cover of “A Pillar of Salt” is a quieter, less active version of the original. Though this approach, rather surprisingly, is effective at expressing the song’s lyrics, Matt’s version can’t help but feel unnecessary, especially in the context of this album’s unclear artistic goals. The second version does no favors with a cringe-worthy EDM twist that clashes with both the song’s lyrics and the group’s folk roots. Later, the band’s dull cover of “Rock in the Sea” is followed by “Summer Interlude,” yet another straight-forward, uninteresting instrumental piece. In covering George Harrison’s “Give Me Love,” the group finds a better balance of honoring the original while acknowledging their own style. Still, the track meanders, with the band’s competence as musicians clearly present but diluted by a boringly play-it-safe arrangement.
Songs of Disquiet is a disappointing installment in Matt Pond PA’s discography. Though it’s not entirely off-putting as a whole, poor musical decisions as found on the band’s second version of “A Pillar of Salt” and the closing track’s lack of depth make the album difficult to recommend. However, it’s important to note that the band has pledged to donate the album’s proceeds to the Save the Music Foundation, a non-profit aimed at restoring music programs in public schools. Still, this admirable decision doesn’t disqualify the band from criticism. If only they had been as musically concerned as they were socially.