Release Date: Nov 2, 2010
Record label: Fader
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
On their first two LPs, Matt & Kim got away with a lack of musical complexity thanks to sheer giddiness. Sidewalks finds the keyboard-and-drums duo trading in its rambunctious synth-punk for a more mid-tempo pop-anthem approach that aims for the heartstrings instead of the jugular. There are brassy hip-hop beats (“Cameras”) and four-to-the-floor techno numbers (“Block After Block”), but most of the tunes prove less frenzied, more thoughtful and content to breathe rather than pummel.
As I stare at this $10 bag of Halloween candy I bought November 1st, a few thoughts pass through my mind, like how America is a fat, consumerist wasteland and how Take 5 bars are the best thing ever. I also can't help but liken Matt & Kim to this neon-colored diabetes in a bag. Every year (album), I know what I'm going to get, save for a few glorious surprises from the good folks at The Hershey Company (those Brooklyn lovebirds), and yet I come back each year to shell out vast amounts of cash (iTunes credits).
Brooklyn’s giddiest indie-pop duo got a boost this spring when Erykah Badu cited their video for ”Lessons Learned” (in which they streak Times Square) as the inspiration for her viral ”Window Seat” clip. On Sidewalks, Matt and Kim seem intent on capturing the curious with a bigger, more pumped-up sound: Check the booming hip-hop beat on ”Cameras” and the parade-ready horn blasts that take ”Ice Melts” into rowdy jock-jam territory. B See all of this week’s reviews .
For anyone who has ever seen a Matt & Kim album, the cover of the Brooklyn synth-punk duo's third effort, Sidewalks, won't come as a surprise. Like the band's 2006 self-titled debut and last year's Grand, Sidewalks comes festooned with a grainy, urban image from the pair's home borough with a colorful, graffiti-inspired, screen-printed overlay. It's a look that pledges allegiance to homemade hipster crafting, DIY punk grit, and locavore Brooklyn living-- all of which have contributed to the band's gleefully spazzy sound in the past.
Even when you put their actual music to one side, Matt and Kim still exude a charming likeability. It’s hard not to watch their video for ‘Lessons Learned’ – a video in which they dodge cops and shock onlookers by stripping nude in the centre of New York – without at least cracking a grin. It’s similarly difficult not to be infected by their on-stage enthusiasm: fist pumping and flailing dancing commenced before a single note was played when I last saw them.
It’s a bit strange seeing keyboardist Matt Johnson rock out as he and his wife Kim Schifino charge through one of their synth-punk numbers live. No matter how excited he gets, staying at the keyboard ties him down. It probably only looks unnatural because we’re so used to rock musicians cavorting freely with more mobile instruments, but seeing both players seated and stationary makes Matt & Kim’s music feel more technological.
The modest breakthrough success of Matt and Kim's 2009 sophomore album, Grand, seemed disproportionate to their songs' near-instantaneous appeal. An average radio presence for the insanely catchy “Daylight” and “Good Ol' Fashioned Nightmare” appeared to be the Brooklyn duo's only real reward for expertly crafting a stomping, sing-along record on an amateur budget. With the indie hype machine seeming largely disinterested in their punk-dance antics, Matt and Kim has soldiered on with mixed results on Sidewalks, an album clearly caught between reveling in the duo's unique, lo-fi ridiculousness and the tempting call of greater popularity via safe, bland production.
Matt & Kim are the indie pop equivalent of Red Bull and vodka: sweet, easy to swallow, and capable of delivering a kick on the way down. The Brooklyn lovebirds stick to what they do best on their third album, which reprises the formula that made their previous record, Grand, an underground success. Synthesizers, drums, and major-key chord progressions are the name of the game, with New York serving as the backdrop for most of Matt’s lyrics.
If [b]‘Sidewalks’[/b] is husband-and-wife duo [b]Matt and Kim’s[/b] vision of a perfect night on the tiles, then partying with them must be hellish. Its chart-pap melodies ([b]‘Good For Great’[/b]) and sodden clichés ([b]‘Red Paint’[/b]), are reminiscent of being trapped at the worst kid’s birthday party imaginable. Synths are blared with the same subtlety as honking birthday horns; the sickly production is more vomit-inducing than quaffing too much jelly and ice cream; and, above the bedlam, [b]Matt’s[/b] voice wavers unconvincingly like an exasperated Dad failing to assert their authority.