The adjectives generally used to describe Matt & Kim lean toward some variation of “cheerful,” mainly because everything about the Brooklyn pair – from their perma-grins and party-kickstarting electropop to their idyllic relationship – is downright jubilant. Oddly enough, the duo’s albums have never quite matched the carefree chaos and joyous dancefloor anarchy seen at their concerts.
That’s changed somewhat with Lightning, which boasts a broader sonic palette as well as more spirited arrangements. “Tonight” – with its Jock Jams sirens, Blondie-inspired synths and disco beat and pro-nightlife lyrics – conveys the exhilaration of a debauched night out, while a hip-hop breakdown and divebombing keyboards cut through the frantic synthpunk cut “Now.” (In addition, more than a few hints of modern EDM sneak into otherwise straightforward tunes; for instance, the twinkly indie-pop of “It’s Alright” has several tension-building sonic crescendos, which deflate with the boldness – but not shudder – of a bass drop.)
Still, Lightning‘s denser instrumentation is far more interesting, because it reveals Matt & Kim’s depth – something for which they don’t necessarily receive credit. The whimsical nostalgia trip “I Wonder” is fun.-like stomping piano-pop with streetwise DJ scratches and tinny drums; the loping “I Said” combines Matt Johnson’s syncopated delivery, squirrelly electro blips, hip-hop swagger, haunted-mansion synths and crashing drums. Even styles for which the band is known – such as surging arcade-punk ( “Much Too Late”) and 8-bit scramble (“Overexposed”) – are crisper and sharper. If Lightning overall feels a little all-over-the-place, well, that’s perfectly fair to say. However, this characteristic also makes the album consistently interesting.