I have a very odd relationship with Matt & Kim. On one hand, they’re easily one of the most entertaining live bands I’ve ever seen. On the other, their music seems to only translate well on stage. While their self-titled debut and Grand were indie pop godsends, things appeared to get even better with 2010’s Sidewalks. But once 2012 rolled around, the duo released Lightning, a record that truly showed me the meaning of the word ‘disappointed’, having only its singles to cling on to. I wanted the bubbly ferocity of Grand and the delectable catchiness that Sidewalks paved for Matt & Kim. That desire only extended once I caught wind of their brand new fifth record New Glow. That same, great desire has unfortunately been halted once more, but it endured nowhere near as hard of a hit as it did in 2012 from the strike-out that was Lightning.
Like Lightning, the high points of New Glow belong to its singles, “Get It” and “Hey Now”. The structure behind both is presented in true Matt & Kim fashion and will see radio play all summer long, guaranteed. Right off the bat, “Stirred Up” excelled in presenting what I truly hate about Matt & Kim’s unique genre, sound bytes of a truly incomprehensible voice as a beat. It gave me a headache. “Can You Blame Me” took me back to the sound of Grand; it has that certain upbeat tone partnered with Matt Johnson’s trademark wordplay that simply transported me back six years. “Hoodie On” mixes Johnson’s wordplay with a rather impressive beat, making it a track that could very easily have been a Sidewalks b-side.
“Make a Mess” and “Killin’ Me” are where the record gets rather sleepy. Not even the head-bob-worthy beats of the latter could keep me interested before hitting ‘next’. “World is Ending” acts as the ‘ballad’, complete with the best mixture of beats heard on the record. “Not Alone” brought out the same thoughts as “Hoodie On”, but increased tenfold, making it my favorite non-single from New Glow. Closer “I See Ya” shows some of Johnson’s best vocal work to date, while enforcing some of his most personal lyrics ever, but the overall sound of the track is, once again, sleepy.
There is nothing I want more than to adore every single Matt & Kim record. I will always stand by the fact that they are some of the most entertaining musicians in the nation, but their music needs that live setting in order to be fully appreciated. The unfortunate thing is that even then, going back to it on iTunes seems to lack most of the magic, no matter how memorable the night may have been. Matt & Kim have the capacity to make another outstanding record, it just hasn’t arrived yet.