Matt & Kim – Grand
There has never been a better time to release a dance pop album. With bands like MGMT and Vampire Weekend dominating the scene, Matt & Kim‘s new album Grand, to be released today, January 20, on Fader Label, will have no problem fitting right in. Grand, the follow up to their 2006 self-titled album, is a really solid display of nonstop power pop fun. The Brooklyn duo relies heavily on synth and drums (a la Mates of State) to create a great range of sound, from the bass-heavy “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare”, to the video game feel of “Cinders”, all while still managing to keep things relatively simple.
The lyrics are playful and clever, touching on topics ranging from living a hectic life (“Don’t Slow Down”), to just letting go and having fun (“Daylight”). Just under two minutes long, “I wanna” is a cute little song about trying to get things accomplished, from simple things like sleeping “I wanna sleep through the weekend”, to child-like dreams “I wanna bring back the bison”.
All in all, Grand is a pretty solid album. Matt and Kim show a lot of skill in their musicianship, though the vocals can be a little bit grating after a while. The album is cute and fun, but this band seems like they’d be a stronger live act than they are recorded. People that are already fans of Matt & Kim will most likely enjoy Grand, but for people who don’t like them, I doubt the album will change any minds.
Hey Marseilles – To Travels & Trunks
If you live in the Seattle area, Hey Marseilles is a name you may have heard come up before. Though they haven’t done much headlining yet, this seven-man band from Seattle has opened for such acts as local notables Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, as well as Parts & Labor. Hey Marseilles also self-released a stellar first full-length album in late 2008 entitled To Travels & Trunks.
This album’s a hard one to put down. Within a week of buying To Travels & Trunks, I listened to it all the way through twenty or so times. They kind of sound like if Bishop Allen took on Fionn Regan as a vocalist, and contracted Zach Condon to arrange their music (light on the horns). The instrumentation is beautiful and dynamic, ranging from lamenting cello to joyful trumpets and everything in between: mandolin, trombone, accordion, and even hand claps, not to mention the other ten or so instruments that are played on this album. These are all delicately balanced and masterfully arranged in a way that I find atypical of a first release. Though the music is beautiful, Matt Bishop’s lyrics are not to be outshined. His words are complex and clever, often addressing realizations we all must come to as we grow up. For instance, in the title track Bishop talks discusses coming out of the delusion of “perfect” love, only to realize “the sky isn’t green anymore”, saying that “all I want is love eternally”, but finding the whole idea to be unrealistic. In Rio, Bishop urges not growing up too fast, to experience everything you can (while you still can) “I will go where the days left to breathe are not gone, are still long, I am travelin’ on”, and not to let a broken heart hold you back, “There are always Brazilian boys to discover”.
“Rio” live at Neumos
To Travels & Trunks is available only online and at a few local record stores, but you’d be hard pressed to find them there — copies of it sell fast. I can’t say I can see Hey Marseilles staying unsigned much longer.