When Matt Johnson nasally sing-songs, "We've all danced alone," on "I Wonder," a hip-hop homage on his Brooklyn duo's fourth LP, you've already gathered that this guy busts his moves mirror-side. The band's thrift-store pastiche, from that track's skidding-siren hook to a few not-quite-ecstatic EDM-style builds, has a manic, self-aware intensity – call it grandiosi-twee. And try to take it in small doses.
Feel-good music can be annoying if you’re not, y’know, feeling good. Even with handclaps, tap-dancing synths, and cheerleader chants, though, the Brooklyn duo sound more punk than twee in Lightning. Songs with shotglass-half-full titles like ”It’s Alright” and ”Not That Bad” build to fist-pump choruses, but there’s just enough attitude to counter that rah-rah spirit.
Essentialist celebre-poppers Matt & Kim blew up with “Daylight” back in 2009, the Williamsburgian elation of their single washing over its listeners like, well, daylight. The rest of sophomore album Grand, though not nearly so ear-burrowingly endearing as its car commercial single, bounced with a similarly bashfully unabashed drums-and-synth enthusiasm. To this then-middle-American writer, the band represented a kind of urban cool (which, I realize, is a trifle pathetic); in their exuberance they exemplified some sort of millennial bohemia, of streets and drinks and cool things Midwesterners didn’t even know about.
On their fourth album, 2012's Lightning, the hyperactive duo Matt & Kim don't do anything too unexpected. There are no string sections, no guitar solos, no children's choirs, no introspective ballads about deep feelings; it's just Kim's drums backing Matt's array of cheesy synth sounds and impassioned vocals on ten songs that have a punky heart beating under a thick coating of modern pop gloss. This time out, it seems like maybe Matt's done a bit more exploring on his synth and discovered a few new sounds, giving the music an added dimension.
On Lightning, not too much has changed for Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino since 2010’s Sidewalks, which itself wasn’t much different from 2009’s Grand. This isn’t to say that the keyboards and drums duo are repeating themselves, but their development is incremental rather than revolutionary. As usual, there are 10 tracks and the album lasts right around 30 minutes.
The hysterically peppy Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim started with a dubiously clever idea: Take the sound of maximalist Top 40 pop, and apply a low-budget, DIY aesthetic to it. Four albums later, Matt & Kim still have exactly one idea, and it's barely expounded upon on Lightning. Matt Johnson still sticks to the cheesiest synth sounds and sings in a cloying whine that is the height of indie twerpiness.
Read any review of Matt and Kim’s first three albums, and several descriptors pop up fairly regularly: high-energy, perpetually happy, DIY, anthemic, sing-along, etc. I’d bet my bottom dollar, though, that fewer reviews mention the synth-punkers’ songwriting ability. On their fourth LP, Lightning, the lovebirds have made songwriting a priority; but, as is the case with their high-energy, perpetually happy, DIY, song-along anthems, the lyrics alternate between the profound and the overwrought.
Energy is something that Brooklyn, NY duo Matt and Kim have in abundance. Over the course of three albums, the indie-pop couple — think a more cheerful, synth/drum version of Jack and Meg White — have maintained a sugar rush of raucous hits, perfecting the formula for earworm confections. Start with Kim Schifino's manic drumming, throw in dashes of Matt Johnson's propulsive electronica and top it off with Johnson's childlike melodies and voila, a Matt and Kim tune ready to crunch your ears.