Brooklyn-based all-smiling synth/drum combo Matt and Kim finally release their third record Sidewalks after previewing it in full last autumn. Well, it is nearly summer now and this is definitely not music for cold and rainy days.
The album kicks off with the duo’s familiar breed of cheerleading pop-rap on ‘Block After Block’ with Matt Johnson’s friendly nasally drawl chanting over staccato synths that sound somewhat slicker than they did on last year’s Grand. Matt & Kim have producer Ben Allen to thank for their shiny and newly smoothed appearance, which covers the DIY feel of previous releases with a slightly hip hop-ifying gloss.
Most of the tracks see the clean cut pair experiment with a succession of computer-generated noises (possibly courtesy of a boyish fascination with some upgraded equipment), mixed with the ever-present slightly cheesy, slightly creepy vocals – the latter of which are particularly noticeable on ‘Good For Great’. Sticking with their tried and tested formula of simple lyrics and even simpler melodies, listening to more than five Matt & Kim songs in a row continues to be advisable only when watching one of the duo’s energetic live performances, where enough excitement is whipped up to make you forget that its all a little bit repetitive. The distinctive drumming has been toned down although the marching band effect still lingers – particularly on ‘Wires’, perhaps the most homemade sounding track on the album, as does Kim Schifino’s occasional echoing vocals.
‘Cameras’ and ‘Where You’re Coming From’ stand out while ‘Red Paint’ is all twinkling computer games noises and ‘Good For Great’ tries rather too hard to be epic. ‘AM/FM Sound’ has an overly memorable chorus which could as equally signal laziness on the part of Matt’s lyric writing efforts as an overcooked attempt to make singing along compulsory. That said, for a band who in some circles can probably still stake a claim at being ‘the sound of Brooklyn summer’, why not try to get everyone singing as the sun comes out for 2011. It’s pleasant, not too irritating but ever-so-slightly over-cute in that camp-but-cool American way.
Sidewalks was streamed in its entirety last autumn – possibly in a bid to generate some of the underground internet buzz that bounced off Grand, so in this and numerous other ways the content is not a revelation. It is, however, fun fair-weather pop, done NYC-style and only the more cynical listener wouldn’t crack a smile while resisting the urge to clap their hands.