Matt & Kim – Lightning

Matt & Kim

Lightning, the fourth album from the hyperkinetic Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim, finds the pair firing on all cylinders to do all the things that have made them a fan favorite since their eponymous 2006 debut . Over the course of ten songs, Matt & Kim stomp the pedal to the medal to chase pop glory with Kim Schifino’s restless drumming, Matt Johnson’s inspired keyboard heroics, and an endless stockpile of triumphant choruses. In between the bookends, the duo bark out Olympic-sized chants, drop a few positively humongous beats, bash out a few “Single of the Year” contenders, and once again find a way to plaster a continuous 30-minute smile to record.

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to catch a Matt & Kim live show, you can already anticipate the rewards coming your way on Lightning. Matt & Kim are adorably manic forces of nature in front of crowds of both hundreds and thousands, and they flash genuine smiles the whole damn time. The transference of positive energy between band and audience is a fantastic communal experience.

Riding a bullet train of adrenaline, a fearless DIY ethic, and packing punches of colossal refrains of sometimes don’t extend beyond chanting the word “Now” against a full-release beat drop and stadium-stomp rhythm, Lightning is Matt & Kim at their hit-making best. The album opens with a string of bona fide serious contenders for “Best Pop Song of 2012,” and the few songs that don’t quite reach the astronomical heights of “Let’s Go,” “Now,” and “It’s Alright” aren’t lagging too far behind. Lightning is a frantic, pure pop record that capitalizes on all the best qualities of Matt & Kim’s repertoire and personalities, and they make all of it seem too damn easy.

Lyrically, they’re not saying much that’s more insightful than anybody else in music, but the duo has a knack for finding breathing room in the mania to let fairly pedestrian words of genuine heart ring out as poignant human experiences. Every now and again, they ease up on the gas, give the minor chords a shot, and deliver a clear-eyed gem of sobering beauty. They do it on Lightning with the closing track “Ten Dollars I Found,” where Kim takes the vocal lead and sings, “Laughter makes the sound / So don’t keep it down / Together we’ll change / Wash away in the rain / Friends just for the night / Or maybe for life.

“Much Too Late” doesn’t strike any minor chords, but it gives us Matt & Kim with claws out fighting for self-preservation in the face of critics and delivering a perfect punk lesson. In the chorus, Matt sings, “You think I’m some little phony / Thing is / You don’t fucking know me! / Take it from me / Take it from me.” In a suffocating age of celebrity gossip (i.e. the shameless hounding of Fiona Apple for the past week) thanks to the likes of TMZ, Perez Hilton, and The Daily Mail, the underdog sentiment of “Much Too Late” comes across as downright punk, and we’re all better off for it.

“It’s Alright” opens with one of Matt’s unabashedly buoyant keyboard melodies before he shouts “Whoo!” and “Hey!” After a 4-count, Matt & Kim allow the verses to breathe amidst Schifino’s rhythm as Johnson sings, “Maybe we’re going nowhere fast / Ohhh!/ And maybe we never even touched the gas.” The line is clever, but far from a poetic insight in print. However, the insight is a total revelation when sung in Matt & Kim’s exuberant pop universe, with Kim’s rousing drumming, countdowns to choruses, beat drops, and “Ohhh!/ Alright, it’s alright, it’s alright / Believe” refrains.

“Now” is perhaps the most shining example of Matt & Kim’s at their most unapologetically infectious. Their knack for hitting all the right notes and co-opting all of the best pop music’s most overpowering sensibilities would be shamelessly seductive if they weren’t so keen on partying with us rather than taking advantage of us. Matt & Kim’s music is a celebration, not a seduction.

Matt & Kim – “Now”

Should the Mayans be inexplicably prescient after all these years, “Now” deserves to be the anthem topping the charts on  the eve of 12/21/2012 if we all want to go out in style with the most festive bash the world has ever seen. Johnson sings, “I know that things aren’t perfect / Sick and a little nervous / Knives tend to get dull and round / So let’s cut this whole building down” before the aforementioned beat drop delivers total release and the repeated, unassailable chant of “Now!” (equally primed for a sold-out Matt & Kim gig, a European football match, an election night celebration, and the eve of destruction).  As fitting as “Now” will be for the blowout, “Tonight” and “Let’s Go” could just as easily serve the cause. The best summation of the unparalleled pop gifts of Matt & Kim is that they deliver greatness time and again, rarely miss the mark, and they never get old.

Over the course of four albums, Matt & Kim haven’t veered far from a winning formula, and why should they when the product is so fulfilling? The majority of the best-selling pop artists could learn some necessary lessons if they studied up in the ways of Matt & Kim, but it’s probably best everybody just lets Matt & Kim work their magic without restriction or copycatting. They welcome anybody and everybody to the party, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anybody in music who transparently loves what they do and the music they make as deeply as Matt & Kim do.


Matt & Kim – “Let’s Go”

Matt & Kim's Lightning

Matt & Kim’s Lightning is out October 2 on FADER label.


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