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Matt & Kim Take It To The "Sidewalks"

The happiest musical duo returns with their third album, and while Matt & Kim may not branch too far out from their usual motif their songs still manage to put a smile on even the biggest scrooge.

Sidewalks is 35 minutes of pure happy keyboarding and joyful drumming, starting things off with the hip hop-inspired "Block After Block." While Matt Johnson will never be considered the grandmaster of rhyme and freestyle, his vocal skills could help the song become a club favorite. "Cameras" also treads on this ground, with Coke bottle-banging beats behind happy lyrics dealing with capturing life-enhancing moments with your eyes and mind. "Good For Great," dealing with trying your best everyday, blends string instruments with a Chiptune twist, the combination creating a fun romp for all to dance to. The plucking of violins create the mood for "Where You're Coming From," its theme about growing up strong in its chorus. It's surprisingly dark (especially the lyric "I'm on my feet today/And I'll walk into the grave"), and its realization that we all die someday is the sort of ground that Matt & Kim usually tend to avoid. They're more about living in the moment, so it's an odd theme to hear in their music.

The first song the duo ever wrote, "Silver Tiles," finally makes its appearance, and it seems to show its age. It comes off as something one would've heard on their self-titled debut, though going back to their roots isn't a bad idea, especially when you can still do it in a joyful manner. Matt & Kim tread down a darker path with "Northeast," almost sounding like more than a Dresden Dolls track than the usual happy-go-luck stuff that the New Englanders are used to performing. (Note to Amanda Palmer: cover this song on YouTube sometime soon!) The album closer "Ice Melts" rids the duo's world of any troubles, its themes of problem solving and working together strong in its lyrics and mood. Sidewalks shows that while Matt & Kim may have its dark times, their positive thinking and good-spirited outlook will always help them and their listeners persevere. In short: while not as strong as their previous work Sidewalks is still another finely-tuned musical cure for your troubled times.

**** (out of five)

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Contributing Editor at ESH since 2008, and host of the No Borders No Race podcast show, which began as a humble college radio program in 2006. My passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture is what drives me to give you my all in every article published and every podcast recorded.