Matt and Kim – Sidewalks

Matt and Kim

I try not to feel a sense of ownership to the music I find in basements, college campuses and squat houses. As I get older, I find less and less of this music in such places. Honestly, as much as I love live music, I don’t go out hardly at all. I hate crowds and college kids and clubs that just want to serve drinks. I hate driving into unfamiliar neighborhoods, newly getting the taste of gentrification by means of well-meaning punks who lack the means and desire to participate in the system. All of this is just a product of getting old. That’s why Matt and Kim are near and dear to my heart. I first saw them at UMD in a cramped radio station with about 50 other kids. I then saw them in a squat/space created by some punks where they put on one of the greatest punk shows I’ve ever seen. This all happened during a time in my life as this stuff was becoming less frequent and therefore more precious.

This is the context I know Matt and Kim in. A pair of punk kids, with punk haircuts and clothing, smelly from the van and totally stoked just to play music. I do not begrudge the duo for anything they have done in their career that has an upward trajectory. At the core, I still think they do things on their terms for the benefit of playing music all the time. They still tour like crazy. But as those experiences are fewer and far between, they actually carry a lot more weight to me then the years when house shows were a weekly occurrence.

The release of Sidewalks shows an ever-expanding sound from the duo that is nearly indistinguishable from their self titled debut. The song structures and feel are still the same, Kim is still stomping on the drums at times, and Matt still has that cute, off-kilter, vocal delivery. It’s not totally unfamiliar, but it’s not longer music made of just three simple parts. The keyboards and other sounds have expanded to include a variety of sounds available at Matt’s fingers. They definitely started this trend with Grand, the amazing second album released a few years ago. And so, Sidewalks continues this, including string plinks, treated drums, and more layered vocals.

After a few listens though, I am still having a hard time pulling out tracks from one another. One of Matt and Kim’s strengths has always been having good, single songs backed by a complex and complete album. But there are just no real fire starters on the album. It’s pleasantly luke warm from start to finish. The soundscape is more complex, filled with deeper, richer sounds. The contents of the keyboards Matt uses is explored greater and the drums are more consistent. Kim isn’t simply bash happy, but has a variety of beats that are at times tempered. These are seemingly augmented by sampled beats (they feel self-created, as opposed to sampled, but as I do not have liner notes, I can’t say for sure) which adds a layer of depth to her instrument that is pleasant. But the album seems to meander, missing the hyperactive urgency of their live show and previous releases. For a band that actually had a consistently accurate albums vs live show ratio, Sidewalks makes me wonder if they’ve totally mellowed out.

Both Matt and Kim and I have grown up over the last few years. I’m never going to get to see this band in a small, intimate setting amongst lost hipsters and gloriously excited punks. For a moment, when they were in the throes of crossing over from DIY Punk Band to Well Loved Indie Darlings, was an awesome time to be into this band. I’m not trying to take anything away from Matt and Kim. Sidewalks is pleasant and totally chilled out  and will certainly calm the nerves should you find yr self in a manic fit. It’s all just odd coming from a band that normally induced the mania. Sidewalks is solid, but it’s going to take some time to get used to.

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