Deep within the lush, swirling pop mastery of The Dark Leaves, there must be some profound meaning. Yet Matt Pond — who named the band after himself and the state in which he formed the group — hides it with pretentious lyrics like "I can't remember which movie taught me purpose/ I can't remember which movie taught me pain." You almost don't care about the symbolism (something about making it out of the dark with your beating heart intact) after hearing the first few notes of "Starting." The album opener seethes with the warmth of viola and cello, concluding with a sexy pop breakdown that hints at intimacy with "less talk" and "more legs." Like Pond's other albums, this collection of string-laden arrangements strives more for beauty than the perfect hook. Warmth radiates sweet lap-steel guitar in "Specks" and "Brooklyn Fawn," while Chris Hansen commands the keyboard in bizarre chord intervals in "Ruins," one of the album's rockers. With The Dark Leaves, Pond continues his love affair with the seasons and nature, providing an atmospheric soundscape that takes us deep into the woods, where he recorded this time around. Pack up — it's one trip you're going to want to take. — Sills
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