Among the many things that the hipster-haters hate about Brooklyn’s Matt & Kim (the omnipresent smiles, the untamed, under-age fanbase, the actual success) has been the critique that ‘all Matt & Kim songs sound like the same song’, usually “Yea Yeah” or “It’s a Fact (Printed Stain)”. Now, those are great songs (QRO video – QRO video), but the duo has only been working with Matt Johnson’s (QRO interview) vocals & keyboards and Kim Schifino’s (QRO interview) drums, making the early material on 2005 debut To/From EP and the following year’s self-titled full-length relatively similar. Matt & Kim seemed to answer the haters with last year’s Grand (QRO review), which was, well, grander, but the haters kept hating (it didn’t help with hipsters when the band won an MTV Music Video Award for their video for “Lessons Learned” – where the pair stripped naked in Times Square and were arrested by the cops – video). Well, all those haters out there can’t say that Sidewalks sounds like the same ol’ Matt & Kim, as the band gets synthier, while thankfully retained the M&K spirit.
You’d think going in that opener “Block After Block” was yet more of the Matt & Kim you know, considering Johnson’s sung, “Mile after mile” before, and Grand was named after a street in Brooklyn, but it actually introduces the synthier sound of Sidewalks. The up-tech, up-procession continues throughout the record, and while it’s a definite change from older Matt & Kim, some tracks on the album can sound like each other, with standouts like the following “AM/FM Sound” & single “Cameras”, and somewhat also-rans like “Block” right before & “Red Paint” right afterwards. It can also feel a bit too tilted towards Matt, without enough Kim.
But Matt & Kim then introduce some seriousness with “Where You’re Coming From”, albeit continuing the uplift (this is a band that can never really be down on life), and the subsequent pro-living, seemingly anti-literacy “Good for Great” (opposing in message, if similar in spirit to “We Are All Accelerated Readers” by Los Campesinos! – QRO spotlight on). The pair gets slower than they’ve ever been as Johnson extols his hometown & the “Northeast”, but that is followed by a new version of To/From‘s old “Silver Tiles”. Synthier & techier than the original version, it’s still relatively stripped compared to the rest of Sidewalks, as is the next piece, closer “Ice Melts”.
Matt & Kim are never going to be the artiste’s favourite. Even past that they’re too upbeat & too successful for the somber artist, even past that their fanbase is too young & wild for the mature, sedate music snob, there’s that the band employs only two instruments + one voice (give Kim a mic!) – Arcade Fire (QRO live review), Sufjan Stevens (QRO live review), they’re not. Even the development of sound on Sidewalks isn’t going to answer their endless critiques. But if they can get over the hate (and themselves), they – and you – will find nothing but love for Matt & Kim.
MP3 Stream: “Where You’re Coming From”