Matt Pond PA, ‘Several Arrows Later’ (Altitude)

Curses, Matt Pond PA! Damn you for sucking all the originality out of your quirky, lush, orchestral pop and making it into just another neutered, Death Cab drone. Curses also for making yet another slew of reviewers make references to The O.C. because you abysmally covered the Neutral Milk Hotel favorite “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” This is the second cover you’ve performed for Seth Cohen and the gang, and you did a much better job de-popping Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova.” At least you didn’t include the train wreck of a NMH track on your new album, Several Arrows Later. But you did include “From Debris,” which sounds like it could be an outtake from Death Cab’s latest album, Plans.

But at least Arrows, while a sterilized version of your former self, is not a total catastrophe: Most of the songs are catchy, and there is no track that stands out as cringeworthy or particularly unpleasant. Frequent visits to the catchy hook department on tracks like “The Moviegoer” and “Spring Provides” compensate for depth lost from the band’s earlier albums, especially last year’s underrated gem, Emblems. But should mere pleasantry be what a musician strives for?

There are some lovely tracks left unscathed by the Abercrombie revolution, especially “The Trees and the Wild,” which, ironically, is a quick boppy ode to doing your own thing: “The future is belligerence / Tells me work and worry / Even without sense / You stick to plans.” If only Matt Pond had taken his own advice and not stuck to the plan of indie pop domination, maybe the rest of the album would be this sunny and vaguely original.

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