Essentialist celebre-poppers Matt & Kim blew up with “Daylight” back in 2009, the Williamsburgian elation of their single washing over its listeners like, well, daylight. The rest of sophomore album Grand, though not nearly so ear-burrowingly endearing as its car commercial single, bounced with a similarly bashfully unabashed drums-and-synth enthusiasm. To this then-middle-American writer, the band represented a kind of urban cool (which, I realize, is a trifle pathetic); in their exuberance they exemplified some sort of millennial bohemia, of streets and drinks and cool things Midwesterners didn’t even know about. I couldn’t have been the only one: Sidewalks, their third album, went up to No. 30 on the Billboard charts and added hip-hop oomph to their smile-core sound. The Brooklyn duo now offers up their next album, Lightning.
And though they have matured—as a round on the Honda Civic tour will do—they are still committed to immaturity; all these songs have a special affection for youth and fittingly incorporate threads from hip hop: “I Wonder,” with its chopped and screwed beat and dancing piano lines is club pop for the PBR set, with frontman Matt Johnson singing a chorus of “I wonder what I could have become.” The lyrics concern getting older and staying put: “I don’t want to see it go / let’s do this one more time.” The themes are standard, but what confessions are to be expected from confections?
Having reached commercial success, the band does, it seem, rejoice in near self-parody: on “Much Too Late,” Kim Schifino pounds out a sloppy punk beat and, at the break, Matt reads their jaded critics’ minds: “you think I’m some little phony/thing is you don’t fucking know me!” (Damn. That’s direct.) What we do know, though, is that Matt & Kim make snap crackle pop tracks—so it’s strange that “Now” turns into Skrillexian pastiche, a humungous titular chorus booming with base and gushing glee. The sucrose surfeit continues with “Not That Bad”—though here the chorus break dispels any smiley momentum they had built up. The singley goo-juice is in two syrupy tracks: “Overexposed,” with talks of road trips and butterscotch synths and a delicious “ooh oooh ooooh ooohh” chorus (because who needs words, really?) The cake is taken, however, with “Tonight,” inexplicably buried at the seventh track (which, hilariously, makes it the second to last). It may be the millionth time that the “ooo” of New York has been pulled to hook status, and the billionth that nighttime volume has been promised to be turned up, but more importantly, getting drunk and dancing to it would be really, really fun.
The listen ends awkwardly with the two-minute ballad thing “Ten Dollars I Found,” which, after a few listens, is actually pretty good if you forgive the total banality of its content. Which, by the way, is a good way to describe the album as a whole.