The synth-pop sensations Matt & Kim have returned for their fourth album in six years. I have a very small history with the Brooklyn duo. I listened to their second album Grand once and never returned to it. Virtually unaware of their evolution and with no past desire to keep track of their happenings, I am unsure how they have grown as a duo. That being said, Lightning sounds much more organized and radio friendly than when I last heard them.
First thought: The vocals don’t sit well with me. I think that was the consensus last time I attempted listening to them as well. “Emo” is an overused, outdated, and incorrect word, but the whiny shouts of Matt Oriente don’t do it for me. This album is more fitting for a 17-year-old driving a VW Bug convertible and still searching for a reason to cry. The album is full of fun, simple instrumentation, similar to the soundtrack of an amusement park, a Whack-A-Mole, a dunk tank. Whatever novelty drew listeners in initially has surely faded by now. Is anyone still listening? Perhaps an Urban Outfitters in Indiana.
“Now,” for example, is the theme song for the electronic teenager searching for an emotional sing-along. It sounds like the last level of a Nintendo game, an epic anthem with damn near Blink 182 vocals. “Not That Bad” sounds like The Cure having a good time, which no one wants. The production on “I Wonder” attempts to brake the mold of Lightning for the better, but the lyrics and direction the song eventually wanders, destroys the potential, transforming into another jingle of annoying nonsense. “Much Too Late,” the second to last song on the album, attempts at punk rock elements, coming off as forced and eventually overcome by glitter notes. “Ten Dollars I Found,” the last song on the album, is the only ballad, the only track in slow motion. Also, it is the only one with female member Kim Schifino singing. It is a fond farewell for a rather dull album. The title Lightning makes perfect sense, as the half an hour album flies by through ten quick tracks, stopping for no one. With heavy drums and fast synth fingers, Matt and Kim sound like they’re auditioning for a track on Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Liquid keyboard drips. Expected lines, like, “This could become the perfect crime. We’re off with nothing to lose.” This is a 2012 poor man’s version of Hot Fuss. I really enjoyed the track “Overexposed.” The rest of the album? Take it or leave it. Powersynth albums that rise the listener and deliver anthems for the youth? Meh.