The hot new instrument in indie rock is the cello. Following the example of Alejandro Escovedo, groups such as Cursive, Bright Eyes, Clem Snide and Godspeed You Black Emperor! have used the tenor-voiced chamber instrument to lend a warm, sustaining tone to quirky, introspective songs. A good example is "Emblems," the new album by Matt Pond PA. It's Eve Miller's cello that provides a musical and emotional center to Pond's beguiling but cryptic songs.

Pond was born in New Hampshire and now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., but he formed this band in Pennsylvania and named it after that state. He's the kind of lyricist who's too lazy to make connections between his random images, but his melodies are alluring, drawing the listener into chord progressions that seem reluctant to resolve.

The album opens with "KC," the stray musings of a murder victim buried beneath a maple tree in Montreal; Pond's lilting melody is counterweighted by Miller's brooding cello. On "The Butcher," Pond sets the mood with his deliberate guitar strokes and his wavering tenor as he evokes scattered snapshots of an urban evening. But the theme of disconnected loneliness isn't realized until Miller's cello comes to the fore with its dark, bruised tone of stifled desire.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Tuesday at Iota. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Matt Pond PA, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8109. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)