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Matt & Kim

Grand

Rating: 4.0

Label: Fader

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Grand is an inventive sophomore album from Brooklyn’s Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino that expands on the drums/keyboards combination of their 2006 self-titled debut effort. Over the last four years, Matt and Kim have embodied New York’s punk spirit – Johnson being a former punk himself – and have played shows in everything from kitchens to warehouses. Using friends to create fun DIY music videos, the duo’s short films have included huge food fights, chopped off limbs and a show played from inside a refrigerator. The pair learned how to play their instruments in front of pulsing hipster crowds throughout Brooklyn, with these live shows frequently having a very intimate vibe.

While the band’s debut was recorded in only nine days, Grand essentially took the opposite approach: it was recorded over the course of nine months in Johnson’s childhood bedroom in rural Vermont. This extra recording time allowed the duo to experiment with different sounds and techniques, putting layer after layer down to create a deeper sounding record. Schifino’s drumming has greatly improved and become more creative in recent years. Dodging the dreaded Meg White Syndrome, she avoids predictability; on “Spare Change” she uses hand claps, foot stomps and finger snapping for percussion. Johnson builds on complex and catchy dual keyboards to create more layered textures than on the debut album, with his voice straining and cracking for maximum emotional impact. Keyboard sounds are shifted and changed, having the effect of allowing the listener to recognize the song’s familiar pattern, but not the tones emanating from the song.

The album’s 11 tracks offer short glimpses into life in New York; the band mixes metaphors with specific locations like Grand Street throughout the album, often celebrating the simple pleasures of what it’s like to be a 20-something living in Brooklyn. The infectious “Daylight” kicks off the album with a bit of jaunty piano; with its opening heavy backbeat and simple message about having fun and living in the moment, it wouldn’t sound out of place on any dance floor in the country.

The album’s major drawback is its short running time. Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, it sometimes feels like it’s over before it even really starts. Still, this paucity is offset by the album’s overall catchiness; quirky songs like “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare” and the instrumental “Cinders” will get lodged in your head for days and then refuse to leave quietly. Some might find the album too sugary for their tastes, but Grand is like Sweet and Low… it’s good for your teeth. It asks the listener to get up and have fun. It’s as simple as that.

by Nicholas Ryan

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