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Music reviews: Matt and Kim, NOFX, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

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Here is a look at recently released music.

Matt and Kim "Lightning"

A musical duo in a relationship that’s named Matt and Kim sounds like it’s fit for the back corner of a martini-soaked bar. But Matt and Kim are far from a lounge act. The two, Kim Schifino on drums and Matt Johnson on keyboards, are sufficient enough to get a huge sound out of their two instruments. They sound even bigger on “Lightning.” The album is their most polished to date. On 2010’s “Sidewalks,” Matt and Kim started to add more elements into their music. The result was their fun, bouncy anthems turning into half-hearted dance songs. They’ve scaled down on the flair on “Lightning,” striking a nice balance of simplicity and slick production. The first single, “Let’s Go,” fits in with the duo’s early stuff while still slightly progressing their sound. “Much Too Late” is a caffeine-fueled romp that features, no pun intended, lightning-fast drums and keyboards. Matt and Kim are at their best when delivering quick bursts. They slip up on the album’s closing track, “Ten Dollars I Found.” The two try harmonizing with each other on the piano-only song, but probably would have been better keeping their frenetic pace. Still, there’s enough energy on the rest of “Lightning” that they’re allowed to take a breather on at least one track.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis "The Heist"

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis sure know how to make one heck of a rap album. “The Heist” may not feature a roster of recognizable guest vocalists. It’s not full of songs about excessive lifestyles. Instead, it’s an album with a lot of depth in both its lyrics and music. It’s an album of stories about overcoming adversity told over complicated beats. Macklemore, a raspy-voiced rapper from Seattle, comes across as aggressive, yet endearing on songs such as “Ten Thousand Years” and “A Wake.” His lyrics are candid throughout this album. Macklemore even tackles gay rights, something rarely done in rap and hip hop songs, on “Same Love.” “If I was gay, I would think hip hop hates me,” he sings over an airy piano-infused beat. A solid hook sung by fellow Seattle singer/songwriter Mary Lambert really completes this song. Macklemore is dialed down on this track. In other places, his delivery builds in intensity along with the music provided by DJ and producer Ryan Lewis. These songs feature multiple layers of beats stitched together into a fresh sound. Lewis even gets a chance to show off his abilities on “BomBom.” While “The Heist” might not be backed by big-named performers, it’s an intriguing album that deserves to be recognized for its complexity and originality.

NOFX "Self Entitled"

Not much has changed across NOFX’s 12 albums. “Self Entitled” sounds much like the rest of the punk band’s catalog. You’ve got your political songs (“Ronnie and Mags” and “72 Hookers”) and your staple religion song (“Xmas Has Been X’ed). One thing that started to come across on the last album was polarizing frontman Fat Mike Burkett’s willingness to show vulnerability. He offers up a little more of that on “Self-Entitled” with the songs “I, Fatty” and “I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again.” The latter talks about splitting up his belongings and his precious record collection with his ex-wife after their divorce. It’s the sad end to a tale that began on 2003’s “The War on Errorism” with the song “We Got Two Jealous Agains.” That song chronicled the coming together of two music collections during a marriage. Now, Mike’s house is gone, but he’s still holding on to his Fugazi picture disc. Even with the inclusion of these songs, “Self Entitled” is still a predictable album. But hey, what NOFX album hasn’t been predictable over the past 10 years? It’s what their fans expect.

Out this week: The Acacia Strain, “Death Is the Only Mortal”; All Time Low, “Don’t Panic”; Between the Buried and Me, “The Parallax II: Future Sequence”; Blackmore’s Night, “A Knight in York”; John Cale, “Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood”; Callers, “Reviver”; Citizens!, “Here We Are”; Converge, “All We Love We Leave Behind”; The Cringe, “Hiding in Plain Sight”; Danko Jones, “Rock and Roll Is Black and Blue”; Don Felder, “Road to Forever”; Freelance Whales, “Diluvia”; The Fresh Beat Band, “The Fresh Beat Band: More Music From the Hit TV Show Vol. 2.0”; Ellie Goulding, “Halcyon”; Hidden Orchestra, “Archipelago”; Wanda Jackson, “Unfinished Business”; KISS, “Monster”; Kenny Lattimore, “Back 2 Cool”; Jeff Lynne, “Long Wave”; MGK, “Lace Up”; Meshell Ndegeocello, “Pour une âme souveraine: A dedication to Nina Simone”; AC Newman, “Shut Down the Streets”; Nonpoint, “Nonpoint”; The Script, “#3”; Rick Springfield, “Songs for the End of the World”; Tame Impala, “Lonerism”; Suzanne Vega, “Close-Up Vol. 4, Songs of Family”; The Wallflowers, “Glad All Over”; Xzibit, “Napalm”; Zedd, “Clarity.”

Out Oct. 16: Jason Aldean, "Night Train"; Trey Anastasio, "Traveler"; Anberlin, "Vital"; Autumn Owls, "Between Buildings, Toward the Sea": Francesca Battistelli, "Christmas"; Bobby V, "Dusk Till Dawn"; Bon Iver, "Beth/Rest"; Boys Noize, "Out of the Black"; Brandy, "Two Eleven"; Steven Curtis Chapman, "Joy"; The Cult, "Weapon of Choice"; Plácido Domingo, "Songs"; Donald Fagen, "Sunken Condos"; A Fine Frenzy, "Pines"; Benjamin Gibbard, "Former Lives"; Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs, "Sunday Run Me Over"; Jamey Johnson, "Livin' For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran"; Cledus T. Judd, "Parodyziac!!"; Leona Lewis, "Glassheart"; Scotty McCreery, "Christmas with Scotty McCreery"; Mika, "The Origin of Love"; Christina Perri, "A Very Merry Perri Christmas"; Pet Shop Boys, "Leaving"; Pinback, "Information Retrieved"; Placebo, "B3 EP"; Various artists, "Disney Fairies: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust"; Martha Wainwright, "Come Home to Mama"; Widespread Panic, "Wood"; Wu-Block, "Wu-Block."

• Rob Carroll writes about pop culture and entertainment for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at rcarroll@shawmedia.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

And get more music news and information at Make It Pop and the new Planit Northwest.

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