By David Colburn
If every piece of music was experimental, would any piece of music actually be experimental? Fun is an important aspect of the impossibly vast music world. Simple hooks, reliable rhythms, and breezy melodies all serve as distinguishing elements of pop music, but the individual execution of such elements determines the quality of the genre. Even in the often predominant concern with commercial accessibility that ultimately lines the definition of pop music, bursts of enthralling creative alterations and unmistakable sonic personality allow for the existence of music that is as analytically intriguing as it is instantly enjoyable.
Matt and Kim’s work is perhaps most accurately defined as simple, yet memorable. Heavily influenced by the synth-pop and new wave genres of the early 1980s, Sidewalks never loses its rhythmic momentum or distinct sense of melody. Songs confidently shuffle onward in the midst of infectious synthesizers and quirky percussion in a successful effort to keep the listener consistently motivated and entertained. From the distorted introductory vocals of “Block After Block” to the final bustling keyboard note of “Ice Melts”, there is a distinct shred of musical genius in the comparative simplicity of the album that reveals itself in the unwavering joy of repeated listens. As with many well-arranged indie pop works, Sidewalks never loses its almost primal appeal that caters to one’s ears more than one’s mind.
Unfortunately, nothing on the album renders it an essential listening experience. All of the breezy, spring-like qualities can only be described as pleasantly adequate in honesty, as few creative alterations or declarations of sonic personality genuinely elevate the experience to a new level of significance. The vintage influence – especially evident in the respective timbres of lead vocals, keyboard pads, and most percussion – bring forth a notable sense of nostalgic joy that exists in an atmosphere of basic influential comparison rather than subtle allusion. As undeniably enjoyable as the album is, one may ask the following question at the end: “What does Sidewalks bring to the music world that has not been brought many times in the past?”
Despite such issues, Sidewalks can be recommended in the same manner that a quick, but delicious snack can be recommended in comparison to a fully-arranged and painstakingly-prepared meal: it may not have everything one needs or wants to experience, but it definitely contains a sweet boost to help one get through the day. The work does not display everything of which pop music is capable, but such a concern will be far removed from the listener’s mind while the music is playing and the energy is moving. Fun is indeed important.