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Matt Pond PA 

Tuesday, February 14, at the Grog Shop.

Matt Pond PA is the chamber-pop group that New Hampshire native Matt Pond formed in the late '90s while living in Philadelphia. If that seems admirably straightforward, it's typical of the singer-songwriter's career.

Since 2000, Pond and his changing lineup have released five albums, culminating last fall in Several Arrows Later, a disc that's generally regarded as the group's most solid, featuring clear-cut relationship songs colored by a softly undulating cello and neatly picked guitar. Among fans at websites like emotionalpunk.com, Pond's skill with sad, sweet, low-key tunes has inspired something approaching awe, because essentially his band sounds like what emo kids want to be when they grow up -- sensitive but grounded. Plenty of other critics, however, have smelled the lie in this maturity: Pond's music is too clean, shorn not only of excess emotion, but also unexpected insight, humor, maybe even recognizable personality. No one denies that his band plays catchy music, however, and for this Valentine's Day show, its members may well loosen those understated neckties they wear as tight as a noose.

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