Matt and Kim have always functioned as Brooklyn’s version of the Black Eyed Peas. They’re perpetual party-starters, possessors of an unwavering work ethic, a much-Googled video on MTV, and even a certified gold single with "Daylight." Now they’re honing a sound to match—pop sheen, club beats, Auto-Tune and all (minus Fergie’s hot pants).
Sidewalks is a different kind of Matt and Kim record. In the opening track alone, there are Nelly-like party calls of "Yeah!," and then later Matt busts into a swift, talky chorus that could almost pass as, god help us, rapping. It’s a far cry from the duo’s drum-keyboard dance-punk circa 2004. This is a good thing, mostly. Matt and Kim didn’t seem like likely candidates for quick evolution back when they were starting out, but here they incorporate zigzagging synths, horns, and a more developed knack for dynamic shifts, all tied into a neat little package by Animal Collective/Gnarls Barkley producer Ben Allen.
Sidewalks is different in bad ways, too. The joint singalong on "Good for Great," one of the record’s many slower, more heartstring-tugging moments, sways back and forth: "We sing along but the notes are wrong/We sing along through night and dawn." We’ve forgiven their periodic lapses into cheesiness in the past, but taken in tandem with their only half-successful attempts at new things here (R&B beats, more personal lyrics, etc), you realize they’re coming at the cost of what’s been their greatest strength all along: the ability to make music that is, first and foremost, a whole lot of fun.