WHAT: Brooklyn drum/keyboard/bf/gf duo's second album. You've probably heard songs from it in promos for that new show "Community," or in a Bacardi ad. Oddly enough, as a fan of their first album, I never got around to hearing this until just recently. Seeing them at the Pitchfork festival this past July re-sparked my interest in them, and yeah, here we are.
1) Daylight (2:51)
The most ridiculously mind-lodging hook kicks the song off before that high synth and Kim's drums kick in. I find it a bit funny that the chorus of the song is actually less catchy than the verses. Kim's drums are either accentuated by a backing beat, or her bass drum is like 100 fucking inches wide. This shit is kind of irresistible. RIFF
2) Cutdown (2:52)
Way more reminiscent of their first album, mainly the song "Lightspeed," if it was a bit faster and more orchestrated. A pretty standard M&K song, but with a few extra bells and whistles, like the gang vocal-ed "Yeah!"s, and the big buildup/countdown at the end. It shows growth within their potentially limiting formula, so I'll give it a RIFF.
3) Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare (3:30)
I kind of see this song as the sister to "Daylight," with its oddly produced drums and its strict adherence to a relatively simple melody. It kind of makes sense that both this and "Daylight" are the songs that have been used on TV so much these days, because they're both extremely hummable, and thus, perhaps sadly, marketable. Still, dubious usage aside, it's another irresistible track. RIFF.
4) Spare Change (1:14)
File this, the shortest song on the album, into M&K's "experimental" file. I feel like I've walked into a choral-accompanied performance of STOMP. Despite some good ideas, they don't really give it enough time to develop. FLUB
5) I Wanna (1:38)
For the second time on this album, Matt and Kim follow a song that diverts from their original formula with a song that sticks right to it. It's a gloriously sloppy little song, with Kim offering a energy packed yet completely off drum roll about halfway through. A throwaway? Maybe, but a damn fine one. RIFF
6) Lessons Learned (3:36)
This song will probably always be overshadowed by its video, where M&K cavort nude around Times Square. It's a shame, because it's one of their most elaborate endeavors yet (well, relatively speaking). Kim is a fucking machine for playing the beat that acts as this song's backbone for so long. One of the more melancholy songs they've put to tape, but once again, a nice extension of their sound. RIFF.
7) Don't Slow Down (3:08)
In which the duo takes the riff from "Just Can't Get Enough" by Depeche Mode and stretches it into a full song, complete with octave jumps in the chorus, and an odd left turn near the end of the song. While charming at first, it kind of gets old about halfway through, when the Morse code-like keyboard part begins to get a little grating. FLUB.
8) Turn This Boat Around (2:10)
This album's slow jam. The keyboards offer a powerful low end, and the background vocals offer an additional heft. Points for using the melodica keyboard tone as well. A little confused as to why it's not at the end of the album, but I'm still giving it a RIFF.
9) Cinders (1:47)
The slow jam is immediately followed by the obligatory M&K instrumental, which follows the twists and turns their other instrumentals take. It's not that it's a bad song- there just isn't that much of a reason to really be impressed by it, considering they've done other songs very similar to it. FLUB.
10) I'll Take Us Home (3:27)
When I see that Matt and Kim have a song that's as long as this one, I really want them to prove that the running time is really needed. Luckily, they pull through on this one, offering a whole bunch of different keyboard tones and at least two or three different vocal hooks that are all pretty sweet. Plus, it's kind of funny how sappy/soulful Matt gets just over halfway in. The track length gives their ideas time to actually stick, instead of the "cram everything we possibly can into two minutes" strategy they rely on from time to time. RIFF.
11) Daylight (Outro Mix) (3:11)
Yep, a reprise of the opening track. However, this time, they make things downright epic- making good use of whatever string settings Matt has on his keyboard. The high-pitched synth part from the original makes a return, and aside from the same bass part and vocal/lyrical similarities, it's a way different beast than the original. This one relies more on buildup and tension, where the original thrives on being a fucking great pop song. Both are worthy on inclusion. RIFF.
8 RIFFS vs. 3 FLUBS
(8 RIFFS/11 TRACKS) x 100% = 72%
So yeah, just under 3/4ths of this album completely rules, and then the remaining fourth is just kind of alright. It's one of the most fun, non-grim/serious albums I've heard so far this year, making it kind of hard to hate without coming off as a serious asshole. Their live show is still definitely worth seeing, and yeah- it'll be interesting to see where they go after this one. Bigger and more elaborate, or even further back to basics? Chamber pop or the happiest drone record ever recorded?