Summary

On their fourth album, 2012's Lightning, the hyperactive duo Matt & Kim don't do anything too unexpected. There are no string sections, no guitar solos, no children's choirs, no introspective ballads about deep feelings; it's just Kim's drums backing Matt's array of cheesy synth sounds and impassioned vocals on ten songs that have a punky heart beating under a thick coating of modern pop gloss. This time out, it seems like maybe Matt's done a bit more exploring on his synth and discovered a few new sounds, giving the music an added dimension. Like their previous albums, a majority of the songs careen and bounce like dogs let off their leashes. "Now" and "Much Too Late" are the perfect examples, Matt's yearning vocals and kaleidoscopic keys riding Kim's whirlwind beats straight into the part of the brain that makes you want to get up and run around. Regarding those whirlwind beats of Kim's, a lingering question -- why you would make the drums sound as precise as a machine when you have such a powerful drummer -- remains unresolved. No matter what the ratio of machines to drums may be, though, the rhythmic underpinnings are fierce enough to give the songs a huge boost of energy. Along with the songs designed to get pulses racing, they aren't afraid to dial it back some from time to time; the super hooky "Let's Go" cuts the tempo in favor of an almost funky late-'90s groove, "I Said" is a rubbery midtempo ballad that injects a smidgen of melancholy into the proceedings, and the album-ending "Ten Dollars I Found" almost gives lie to the "no ballads" clause in their contract. Matt & Kim duet on this quiet piano-led singalong that ends the album on a very sweet note. Lightning is no kind of departure, but the slight variations in sound and the slightly expanded emotional palette mean that it's an improvement over the last record or two. ~ Tim Sendra