Release Date: Apr 7, 2015
Record label: Harvest
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Matt and Kim's live shows are riotous, high-flying (literally, in Kim's case) celebrations of pure joy, and whether or not their albums quite match the levels of that buzz, they're exactly the right soundtrack for that experience..
Matt & Kim's new album, New Glow, sounds like spring. It's a bright and cheerful record, full of excitement for brighter days, a musical optimism that has become a hallmark of their sound. The most enjoyable part of New Glow is the use musical cues usually found in hip-hop, like on opening cut "Hey Now," which comes in big with a big brassy beat, group chants and even air horn, while "Stirred Up" starts with a pitch-shifted hook that would also feel at home on an A$AP Rocky track.The album's biggest problem is that these cues and ideas aren't used enough — throughout New Glow, Matt & Kim fall back into a more familiar sound, which begins to sound a bit repetitive by the end of the record.
Over the course of a decade, four albums, and uncountable miles of touring, Matt and Kim have made a good career out of powerhouse drums, cheesy synths, impassioned vocals, and songs that get pulses racing and feet moving. Like a toybox punk-pop dance machine that will stop working forever if it stops moving just once, they always seem like they're in a rush to get the song they are playing over with so they can jump feet-first into the next one. Admirable and fun, it's a mode of operation that apparently leads to burnout, because their fifth album, New Glow, is their first to show serious signs of wear and tear.
Nine years after their first album, Matt & Kim have never strayed from their initial elevator pitch: they’re still a pop band in indie clothing, re-imagining contemporary party music with a punky, DIY spin. In 2015, however, the concept of scrappy outsiders engaging with pop and dance music doesn’t carry the quixotic novelty it once did. As the boundaries between pop, indie, and alternative have blurred or disappeared over the last decade, Top 40 has become a less exclusive club.
Writing a review of a new Matt and Kim album feels a little disingenuous, because, for the Brooklyn duo, it’s never been just about the music. A video of the two of them streaking through Times Square, say, or the chance to play a high-octane show to a sold-out festival audience — these are the opportunities that their music-making affords them. Their albums are a kind of means to an end that involves a full sensory assault on the world.
Matt and Kim are experts at throwing euphorically geeky dance parties, cranking out jams that would sound more at home in a bounce castle than in a club. The mix of indie pop, hip-hop and EDM on the Brooklyn duo's fifth album has never been catchier — from the twerped-out trap music of "Stirred Up" to the casual swag of "Hoodie On" to the sugar-shocked New Wave of "Make a Mess," their all-smiles assault can be adorable, at least in moderate doses. But unless you're the kind of person who throws your hands in the air to a salvo like, "We're riding bikes through red lights/We're bulletproof," the cuteness starts to wear thin pretty fast.
You know where you stand with a Matt & Kim album. The girl/boy duo from Brooklyn have spent the last decade or so making big, bright, party anthems – relentlessly upbeat and full of handclaps, singalong choruses and are still short enough to throw yourself round the room to and still have enough energy to go out clubbing afterwards. It’s the sort of sound that’s proved irresistibly popular for a few years now, popping up on the soundtracks of hip TV shows and films.
Matt And Kim have never shown much interest in expanding beyond the shamelessly simple, high-energy party-playlist anthems that they’ve faithfully churned out for nearly a decade now—their sole, unwavering goal has been to pump up the crowd, not prove anything to the critics. Through the years, however, each batch of two- and three-note beats and choruses have been progressively harder to get excited about; despite the infectious jock-jam opener “Let’s Go,” 2012’s Lightning should have sounded alarm bells with its lack of engaging hooks. With New Glow, the duo’s well of shallow melodies has finally dried up.
Brooklyn's ever-endearing indie dance duo are so polished now, it's hard to believe they're the same band that tore up the Whippersnapper Gallery back in the day. Their fifth album, which is all hyperactive synth melodies and shrill sing-shouting in classic Matt and Kim style, sounds like it was smothered in thick syrup, drowned in glitter and then levelled out with soul-sucking effects for good measure. All of the above would be tolerable if there were any semblance of the grit that made the duo so special.