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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 5 Albums of 2009: #2

Matt & Kim
Grand

The first time I heard Matt and Kim was soon after their self-titled debut was released in 2006, and in so many words, I was not a fan. The duo seemed like they were trying a little too hard, the production value was thin at best, and Matt's voice grated on my nerves (if not slightly because I had a bunch of classes with an obnoxious kid named Eric who sounded just like him). So I wrote the band off, forgot about them until I heard the song "Daylight" on a Bacardi Mojito commercial. Instantly I recognized Matt's voice, but this time I found myself nodding along instead of wanting to throw myself into traffic.

So I gave their newest album a chance. And really, "a chance" is all I could really call it, because I listened through it once or twice and thought, "Well that was pleasant I suppose," and promptly forgot about it all over again until I happened to see the video for Grand's second single, "Lessons Learned" online. And I was hooked. In no small part, I'm sure, due to the fact that Matt and Kim are both rather attractive people and end up getting very naked in said video. I went back and listened through the album again, and something inside me clicked. My icy heart melted and I fell in love with the cute hipster couple from Brooklyn.

You see, it's all about context. I initially thought them no more than a bunch of trust-fund, art-school clowns going out of their way to make peppy dance music to get popular with the tragically hip Williamsburg scene. But what came off as so Cool to me was actually just plain... well, cool. Their songs are upbeat because they're upbeat. Their lyrics are about how awesome life is because their lives are awesome. How couldn't they be? Here are two twentysomethings that are living their absolute dream, playing music and living in New York City and being ridiculously, adorably in love with each other. They've found something that few people in the world can ever find, and it gushes forth in their music.

It also doesn't hurt that the production on Grand has been ramped up considerably since the couple's last album. With just a drummer and a keyboardist, all sorts of places on the equalizer can get missed, and with Matt & Kim, they did. The album was all mid-range, with sounds tripping over each other to be heard. Now, there is bass! Not the instrument, of course, but the range--a booming low end that rings out with the thump of Kim's drums and the rumble of the left-most keys on Matt's keyboards. Add in some more delicate numbers than were found on their sugar-pop first release, and you have a record that gets more to the heart of things: namely, their hearts.

Every single song on Grand sounds like summertime. Like riding your bike around town in cutoffs and a v-neck, sitting on your filthy, broken porch watching the world go by without a single care. Probably because most of the songs are about exactly that. And they touch me because, frankly, that's exactly what I'd like to be doing at any given moment. Some people might not take Matt & Kim seriously because of how much fun they are having, because their music isn't "serious" enough, but it's the loss of those people. This album does for me what people talk about Pet Sounds or Workingman's Dead doing for them. This is most definitely a Desert Island Disc for me, because it just makes me feel better when I turn it on. And I feel like, as brilliant as, say... Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Of Natural History may be, I might want to have something to cheer me up a bit. Y'know?

Matt & Kim - Daylight

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