You know where you stand with a Matt & Kim album. The girl/boy duo from Brooklyn have spent the last decade or so making big, bright, party anthems – relentlessly upbeat and full of handclaps, singalong choruses and are still short enough to throw yourself round the room to and still have enough energy to go out clubbing afterwards.
It’s the sort of sound that’s proved irresistibly popular for a few years now, popping up on the soundtracks of hip TV shows and films. Their song Daylight was once used in a commercial for the iPod Nano (remember when that was a thing?). It’s a recipe that’s been pretty successful for them, but it also means that they’ve resolutely refused to alter their sound.
Which is where we come to the problem with New Glow, the duo’s fifth album. Whereas their debut record, and particularly third alum Sidewalks, sounded vibrant, fresh and full of life, there’s also a case of the law of diminishing returns. It feels like old ground being covered over and over again, and even though the 10 tracks on New Glow pass in under half an hour, it feels an awful lot longer than that at times.
Yet, at times there are flashes of former glories, which makes listening to New Glow all the more frustrating. The blast of horns that introduce opening track Hey Now is genuinely invigorating, and the duo’s multi-tracked vocals recall the bludgeoning mix of noise and melody that fellow Brooklynites Sleigh Bells are so good at. Get It is also a tremendous amount of fun with a killer hook of “we all sing along…but the notes are wrong”, and the bouncy piano riff that powers along Can You Blame Me is a double-espresso style blast of energy that proves very infectious.
However, at far too many times on New Glow, there’s the sense of the duo phoning it in. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Hoodie On, which is literally two minutes worth of Matt Johnson telling us about all the things he does while wearing the titular item of clothing – buys a house, writes a song, hangs around town, all the while “looking like a king”. It’s monotonous, clumsy and could well turn out to be the most irritating song of 2015.
Nothing else quite reaches the nadir of Hoodie On – although Make A Mess sometimes sounds like a tinny Casio keyboard about to blow up, and World Is Ending actually includes the lyric “the selfie is alive and growing stronger” which sounds so contrived to fit in with Matt & Kim’s ‘youthful’ image that it threatens to bring the whole song crashing down around it. But the main problem is that there’s little here that’s been done better already – not least in the band’s own back catalogue.
No doubt, Matt & Kim will still put on a terrific live show – when you have songs as full as vim and energy as they do, they can’t fail to be a fun live prospect. And, to their credit, they’ve never even pretended to be interested in doing anything other than providing big indie-pop anthems. Yet, if New Glow is anything to go by, the creative well seems to be starting to run dry.