REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/12/2011
This isn’t much of a bold statement because Matt & Kim is so darn loveable, but I adore this Brooklyn duo (made up of married couple Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino). They’re known for their frenziedly energetic live shows, but they still translate to disc well, too, crafting pop-punk albums that combine breezy joyousness with a certain raw edge. Building off of an EP and their spontaneously sloGppy self-titled debut, 2009’s Grand is another dose of all that goodness, only this time, with some more mature textural exploration. Kim is still holding down the beat with sputtering, punky drumming, while Matt’s warm, earnest vocals meld with all-over-the-place synths to create their own mish-mash of genres.
Of course, everyone knows Matt & Kim for their ubiquitous single “Daylight,” which launches out the disc with plinking pianos, propulsive synths, and Johnson’s wickedly charming vocals. It’s an anthem of total freedom – “In the daylight I don’t pick up my phone / ‘Cause in the daylight anywhere feels like home” – and it makes sense why this single resonated so much; who couldn’t use permission to unplug and cut loose? This song is so good it even shows up again to close the album, with “Daylight Outro Mix,” a slowed-down beat with throbbing drums that bookends everything nicely. The revamp of “Daylight” is kind of a microcosm of Grand itself – reimagining their kinetic bursts of energy into more fleshed-out atmospheres.
Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The first half of the album is consistently pretty pumped-up, from the bouncing groove of “Cutdown” to jubilant, lawless “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare” (which sounds incredible live when the crowd sings the choruses). Meanwhile, “I Wanna” is a barely two-minute dose of raw defiance, all busy guitars and Johnson’s defiant lyrics, and “Don’t Slow Down” is a spitfire love letter to New York City (“Locked knees, no keys / Brooklyn, Grand Street / Four flights, late nights / Black socks, white dice”).
The latter half of the album is less memorable than earlier tracks, but it’s tough to compete with the sheer ineffable awesomeness of tracks like “Daylight” and “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare,” which are destined to stay in the Matt & Kim repertoire for a long while.
Still, on an album this short (clocking in at not even a half hour), missteps stand out more than necessary. “Turn This Boat Around” somehow feels long at only two minutes with its swirling, repetitive keyboards and lack of drums, and “I’ll Take Us Home” has some slower sections as well that just miss the mark.
Luckily, those moments are few and far between on Grand. Matt & Kim has forged more personality in two albums than a lot of acts manage to do in double the time, and it bursts out of their music just how passionate and happy they are to be doing what they’re doing. They’d reach even greater heights on 2010’s Sidewalks, showing that this leap of maturity in terms of their sound and scope was just a stepping-stone to bigger things. Not bad for a half-hour album, is it?