Junk Mail: Matt and Kim 'New Glow' Album Review
Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week, Carolyn Menyes, Maria Sullivan and Caitlin Carter chat about Matt and Kim's new album New Glow. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section, and check back next week for more.
Carolyn Menyes: This week, like most weeks, is really dragging for me. But Matt and Kim's new album New Glow kind of helped me pep up this morning and get to work. As far as I'm aware, this is a band that's always been infectiously peppy, maybe almost annoyingly so. But, it worked to jump-start my day. The first song, "Hey Now" is such a blast of energy. It's pretty much as effective as coffee.
Caitlin Carter: Matt and Kim are definitely known for their ability to hype a crowd and get you feeling good. New Glow continues that, but I feel like it was a little shallow. Not that I was expecting something super deep, but I felt like the production was a bit dated and the lyrics were a bit repetitive. I did, however, think that "Get It" had interesting production and lyrical depth. That outro was dope.
Maria Sullivan: Yea; Matt and Kim is mostly categorized as the pep in your step. On New Glow that's no different, but the happiness seems less intentional and more experimental here. New Glow starts off as platter of several types of parties: the trap dub on "Stirred Up", the EDM feeling fly sound of "Can You Blame Me", and the high on myself "Hoodie on" reminiscent of dragging yourself out of bed on those dreary high school days.
CM: Yeah, I enjoyed how experimentally happy they were here. I think it worked better on some songs than others, though. I'm not too terribly familiar with Matt and Kim beyond their singles, but some of these songs were a little laughable. The hip-hop thing they had going in "Stirred Up" was really off-putting to me, but that could because I am very much not in to trap music. I also feel like "Make A Mess" sounds like a bad YouTube meme.
It's weird that an album that's just 27 minutes and 10 songs long can be such a mixed bag. I think I get what they were going for here, but it just misses the mark for me. Am I alone in this? Am I a just a curmudgeon?
CC: You are not alone. This album just doesn't seem to grab me. If I were looking for a feel-good song, there are so many more to choose from nowadays that I don't think I'd go back to this album. It just feels like it was put together really quickly, and it almost seems too dumbed down.
Also, that "Hoodie On" song was sort of awkward because of the social connotations attached to hoodies in 2015. It just seemed weird to have a white dude singing about wearing hoodies when in this day in age people of other races are shot down for that sort of thing. I'm almost positive Matt and Kim weren't thinking about it that way, but that's where my mind went when I heard it for some reason.
I think that in the age of the Internet when so much music is available at your fingertips, your album has to be more than a mixed bag of feel-good vibes. It needs a little more substance, even if it isn't lyrical substance.
MS: I'd go as far to say this is not an album in the traditional definition and components, rather a playlist or sampling. The closest we come to the OG sound of Matt and Kim is on "Not Alone" which takes a about a minute too long to end. This is more of a sales pitch for what they are capable of performing and all of the feels they can give you in a live show.
The hoodie aspect you bring up, Caitlin, is a major ear sore on the tracklist. The last album they released was in 2012, and perhaps "Hoodie On" was an earlier cut, written before 2014. I hope. But it feels uncomfortably cold zipped up with percussive sampling and vapid lyrics, "Bought my new house with a hoodie on/been around the world 10 times with a hoodie on." They even go as far to say "I look like a king with a hoodie on."
CM: Oh, god. I was so focused on how stupid of a topic your favorite hoodie is for a song that the ignorance of the lyrics in 2015 totally passed me by. I hope it's an older cut, too. They OBVIOUSLY didn't mean anything by it, but that does make me feel awkward. The "king" line is something that could really only come out of ignorance. And I get Matt and Kim's schtick, but that's still such a dumb frickin' song. Bad on most levels.
That's my biggest beef with this record -- the lyrics are really vapid. These songs don't really have any meaning. And, I get it, they're good time happy party songs, Pharrell's "Happy" is really stupid, too. But that album was balanced with other material.
Maria, I think you have a good point... this is less of an album and more of a fuel for party playlists and a tour. That's fine, but it makes for an odd listening experience when I'm at work.
CC: Matt recently told Rolling Stone, "We don't want to mature in albums. We want to keep things simple and fun." So at least they are being consistent. However, there is just no emotional depth to the album and none of the repetitive chants seem that anthemic. I can't imaging people getting down and shouting along to this album like I can with some of their other offerings.
The one exception, though totally cheesy, is on the final song "I See Ya," where he apologizes to his friends and family for not being present as often as he should've been since the duo got famous.
MS: That's fair, Caitlin. I guess they are just trying to create a cheery vibe for a late night gathering, not the next Abbey Road. And I get that. I even appreciate the varied range of genres on this 27 minute bundle of tracks for the shuffle experience they create sonicaly. Socially, however, I just don't see it happening, even given the fantastic Drake-esque baseline that comes in at the 12 second mark on "World is Ending", which is drowned out some 30 seconds later with a stereotypical synth fit.
CM: Yeah, it all comes across as a little messy. That can be OK, but it all feels very chaotic and it's not like any singular songs really stand out to me in the scheme of the album. I like "Hey Now." I think the horns are fantastic and the music video is really fun, too. Is there anything on this album you guys like? Any gems? Or nah?
CC: I mentioned before, but I thought the production and structure on "Get It" was intriguing. On "Hey Now," it was interesting to see them highlight their romantic relationship, which I don't feel like they do a lot. The horns were also a fun touch. I can see fans being into "World Is Ending" and it doing well, too. Which songs do you guys think might translate better live than here on the album?
MS: Same. The horns on "Hey Now" have a great NOLA vibe and the sad-happy chorus cries out about relateable issues you know will work themselves out, similar to Bleachers' "I Wanna Get Better." I'm actually partial to closer "I See Ya." They upped their melody game, slowed down the bpm and got personal lyrically. I feel like this is the most "real" of the tracks here on New Glow. I could see "Can You Blame Me" getting a great Calvin Harris remix treatment and blowing up in the festival circuit this summer.
CM: Matt and Kim may not care so much about connecting on New Glow, so I guess it's OK that sometimes they fail to. Apparently, they don't care anyway. New Glow has some highlights for me, mostly the opening track, but otherwise it just feels a little too silly. And that probably will translate wonderfully to remixes and the live stage, but for me, this is just a collection of singles and little more.
CC: I think Matt and Kim thrive in their live setting, so I'm not going to really think too hard about this album. Did it do much for me? No. But this band is about the 360-sensory experience, and that's where they excel. You almost need more simplistic music for that type of performance. That said, there were some catchy tunes on New Glow, but overall it lacked substance. I'll be looking out for those remixes, though!
MS: Go see them live. New Glow has a perfectly suited alt-pop opener in "Hey Now" but the LP lacks overall structure and substance through to the end. The in-cohesiveness of the tracks makes them feel like they would have been more at home on an EP or as B-sides. But maybe what they were really after was creating more content to wild out to live. New Glow is just another part of the Matt and Kim experience, another instrument, means to an end.