For those who experience season changes, every month has a certain feel, which corresponds to certain albums. Fleet Foxes
, carries a January vibe, while Arcade Fire's The Suburbs
sounds great in the Fall, and Lost In Space
by Aimee Mann has been a personal favorite for November evenings since its release back in 2002. Were this phenomenon more recognized, musicians might even time releases based on the album's best listening season, in which case,Sidewalks
would make a perfect candidate for early Summer, brimming as it is with energy and potential.
Of course, the notion might never occur to Matt & Kim, better known for their free-spirited enthusiasm and carpe diem approach to songwriting. Since 2004, the Brooklyn-based couple have been composing upbeat, dance punk anthems on a limited framework — Matt on keyboard, Kim on drums — and while the drumming feels erratic at times, and the melodies uncomplicated, the duo's penchant for fun is infectious. The "oh eh" chorus on "AM/FM Sound" and lines like "Tortoise versus the hare / Old rabbit ears / No longer hear / Television beware" might sound ludicrous from anyone else, but Matt & Kim are so unselfconscious that there's little do but cheer them on.
The formula remains unchanged, picking up where Grand
left off. Additional layers of synth effects continue to fill out the sound, as Matt & Kim refine their act, and the use of a professional studio adds some polish to the album. This, combined with Ben Allen's production, has resulted in an uncharacteristic sheen that's a little difficult to judge. On the one hand, a more professional sound might earn them some well deserved recognition, but it feels like a dose of lithium, at times, to the couple's unchecked energy. The hip-hop beat on the album's opener would make anyone with a pulse feel like dancing, but the drumming sounds a little more sterile — almost sampled — compared to what fans of Grand would expect. Matt & Kim can hardly be blamed if they want to be taken more seriously, but they're walking a fine line and, if they slip, I for one would hope they fall in favor of the more organic.
Fortunately, there's plenty of upbeat enthusiasm on Sidewalks
, the quality Matt & Kim do best, and only one moment that feels like a misstep in the awkwardly downtempo "Northeast" — on an album filled with party songs, this one just picks up too late. Then again, there might be something to be said for being a little out of place. If you're looking to embrace the somber feel of the coming long, cold winter nights, Sun Kil Moon should do the job; if you need to beat the winter blues, give Sidewalks
by Matt & Kim a spin.
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Concert: Matt and Kim at McCarren Park
MP3: "Block After Block"
Matt & Kim on Myspace