Originally posted October 2nd, 2012 on Intersections.
When “Let’s Go” dropped back in June, Matt & Kim fans exploded with glee at the prospect of a new album, though perhaps disappointed that Lightning wouldn’t hit the shelves until October. However, from the first listen, it’s clear that Lightning wasn’t intended to be a summer album. Instead, the album gives the impression that summer is a distant memory, the thrill of a new academic year has faded and the leaves have yet to explode into fiery hues.
While Lightning is certainly reminiscent of Grand, there’s less of that chaotic optimism. Just a glance at the track titles gives you the impression that a lot has changed since then. If Grand was “Daylight,” Lightning is “Daylight (Outro);” Lightning feels like a post grand theft auto beach getaway; you’re here, but what now? It would be a mistake, however, to think that Lightning is an angsty album; it’s more akin to the fading of an adrenaline rush.
Constructed in Matt & Kim’s old Brooklyn apartment, it’s clear that the duo spent a lot of time playing with synths and digital stuff while making Lightning. In traditional Matt & Kim fashion, Lightning is a short & sweet 10 tracks. Compared to the past couple albums, Matt and Kim paid a bit more attention to their lyrics this time around. Lightning toes the line of introversion and optimism. Read after the jump for a track-by-track.
1. Let’s Go
This track is the last hurrah of the summer, the start of a new school year, optimism and sunshine distilled into one perfect piece of indie pop. The soaring ooh’s are perfect for taking off on the highway, windows down, and no particular place to go. “Let’s Go” is everything you’ve ever expected and wanted from Matt & Kim, a feel-good track with catchy, sing-along vocals, complex drums, and simple electronic piano melodies.
The intro reminds me a bit of “Cinders” from Grand, but the glitchy echo of Matt’s vocals and the high-pitched synth drop are hallmarks of electronica/dubstep influence. Someone also got a little excited with the little pitch changer. While it’s cool to listen to at first, I’m not all that sold on this track. It seems more like an computer-generated musical experiment. I guess I’m a bit disappointed with this track because it is missing that quintessential Matt & Kim je ne sais quoi.
Some things are better with age, some things no longer remain.
3. It’s Alright
This track returns to Matt & Kim’s trademark sound of joyful simplicity, but doesn’t really break any grounds here. Compared to “Now,” where Matt and Kim just got really excited about technology, “It’s Alright” feels like they figured out how to use everything appropriately. I’m starting to warm up to the synthy-goodness with each listen, but I can’t help but draw comparisons between this and Passion Pit’s “I’ll Be Alright” from Gossamer. While Matt & Kim won’t ever be the indie electronic/glitch masters that Passion Pit will be, “It’s Alright” is the perfect child of Matt & Kim’s original sound and newfound digital composition skills.
Alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, believe.
4. Not That Bad
The delightfully syncopated piano in the intro perks up my ears instantly. This midtempo track is the descendant of tracks like “I’ll Take Us Home” and “Turn This Boat Around” from Grand and most of Sidewalks. During the chorus, the track slows down, and the piano drops out. The track feels like you’re lying in bed trying to convince yourself to get up and go outside.
Your watch looks the same, but times they have changed.
The hyper intro builds energy that continues throughout the track. I don’t know about you, but I imagine the couple running through the streets of Time Square naked.
But people don’t listen, so we’ll scream and shout as if these words are cheap.
Like a picture, album’s overexposed
6. I Said
A slow burner track, less tired, more methodical and persistent, this track is four minute stripped down Matt and Kim. Instead of cramming in every instrument they can into two minutes, Matt and Kim have given “I Said” a few sparser sections, making their sound explosions all the more powerful.
Some days I feel like I’m doing time, I know you’re just as confused.
More even-tempered and less frenetic than you’d expect of Matt & Kim party anthem. Perfectly condenses that feeling of wanting your night to go on forever.
New York is live, and we’re turning it up tonight.
8. I Wonder
Experimental intro. Weird intro. Playful, though perhaps a little odd. Not really sure what’s going on in this track. Have a listen. There’s a lot of different sounds in this track, but spread out over the 2 minutes and 50 seconds.
I wonder what I would have become.
9. Much Too Late
Just from the feel of the intro, the instruments sighing underneath the crazy fast beats are Matt and Kim’s way of signaling that Lightning is coming to a close. More appropriate use of electronic music. Matt sounds a bit more frustrated than optimistic here.
All of this I brought upon the help, brought upon myself.
10. Ten Dollars I Found
Slow intro, just piano. Feels like the end of a long night of partying and you’re walking down the empty city streets, watching the sun rise as you stop underneath the traffic lights of an intersection.
Lightning is now available in iTunes and Spotify from FADER.