Matt & Kim aims for the sweet spot with ’Grand’
Matt & Kim, in all its lackadaisical glory, is an indulgence. The bubbly Brooklyn duo is the musical equivalent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch–sweet, sugary and perfect for those late Saturday mornings after you’ve slept for ten hours.
Just spin its self-titled debut from 2006 and listen for yourself. The album has the haphazard energy of a second grader after a bag of Sour Patch Kids. There’s an air of excitement and mild chaos, but the music isn’t in your face. On their latest release Grand, Matt and Kim have maintained their pop sensibilities while exploring new dynamics.
The opener, “Daylight,” encapsulates the album’s carefree mood. A triumphant piano riff cascades over a jaunty marching rhythm while synthesizers drone and wail in the background. The carpe diem lyrics evoke memories of summer, with lines like “Open hydrant, rolled down windows / This car might make a good old boat / And float down Grand Street in daylight.” The track is the perfect anthem for sunny afternoons and captures the positive vibes of Grand.
The album’s upbeat energy is channeled into the next track, “Cutdown.” A buzzing bassline underlies gentle synth strings that launch into a beautiful, drum-heavy crescendo at the end of the track. As quickly as it built up, the momentum slows down a bit with the wistful and slow “Good Ol Fashioned Nightmare.” This shift in dynamics makes Grand sound more varied and mature than its predecessor. Matt & Kim delve into slower, more relaxed moods throughout the album in tracks like “Turn This Boat Around” and the outro remix of “Daylight.”
Of note is the impressive production quality–clean and loud. In particular, the drums have a powerful presence that lends itself to the album’s energy. The rhythms on Grand sound huge, especially in “I Wanna” and “Don’t Slow Down.” Both are unrelentingly upbeat tracks driven by Kim’s lively percussion and Matt’s frenetic synth work. As with The Black Keys or Death From Above 1979, it is hard to believe that all the music comes from only two people.
The drums drop out completely for “Turn This Boat Around,” which is carried completely on vocals and simple keyboard parts. The calmness quickly turns into madness with “Cinders,” a short instrumental that spirals upward into synth-and-drums euphoria. Grand closes with an interesting, stripped-down mix of “Daylight,” which nicely ties back to the beginning of the album. The entire album is only a scant 29 minutes long–just like the weekend, because you’ll wish it lasted longer.
Full of energy and free of care, Grand revels in its youthfulness. Pop music is meant to be fun music, and this album convincingly validates that claim. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, put this record on. You won’t regret it.
88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.