If you are a Matt & Kim fan, then the cover of Sidewalks will come as no surprise to you. The punk duo once again proudly display their music with a vibrant picture of urban New York and a graffiti overlay. Easily said that this is exactly the sound that we have grown to love, a gritty punk style with a strong call to hipster heaven, Brooklyn. Blue skies and positive fonts give off that familiar happy tone that have kept us so lighthearted while listening.
However, That is where the expectations end. Upon listening to Sidewalks, it is noticeable right from the first track, “Block After Block,” that something is amiss. The poppy synth riffs and messy stringing of sound that made Matt & Kim are replaced with what feels like a drum machine and formulaic chords.
While shaking that first headrush from listening to album, you can still pick out the ingredients that made Matt & Kim such a great display of musical ability. Listening to Sidewalks will make you smile and feel content with the world. The fun and childlike joy that is displayed in the music is hiding around every stanza.
On the opening song “Block After Block” you are hit with what sounds a super produced sample until Matt’s familiar nasal voice brings us back to reality. The complicated wordy lyrics are the most comforting thing to hear from what could shock and confuse you. “Cameras,” the single released months in advance, is just as surprising. With horns and fun drum sounds you can’t help but stay interested.
The wonder of if this album has left the roots of the first cd Matt & Kim is definitely there. And unlike Grand, which went for more instruments and less synth, this feels like it has left us wanting the old raw energy and pure passion that Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino created together. The produced hip hoppy style of Sidewalks seems to detract from the crude euphoria that made this duo great.
This experiment was an interesting step in the musical world for M&K. Songs like “Red Paint” and “Wires” still have that old flair tucked in with their huge chorus and positive beats. Listen to Sidewalks a few times before you dismiss it. While it is different from our normative duo, it is still a decent listen during your hipster binges.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-½
Key Tracks: “Wires”, “AM/FM Sound”, and “Silver Tiles”
Recommended if you like: Passion Pit, Tokyo Police Club, and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!