Mates of State
Artist: Mates of State
Record Label: Barsuk
Carefree harmonic duo Mates of State release their fifth full length record ‘Mountaintops’ almost six years after ‘Bring It Back’ their last album of original material. The pair has stayed busy in that time among other things releasing their cover album ‘Re-Arrange Us’ in 2008. Consistent touring keeps Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel occupied. Parenthood does as well notably when the couple brings their kids along on tour as thoughtfully described in Kori’s parenting blog ‘Band on the Diaper Run’.
In close company with their married partnership, the strength of their connection as band-mates and synchronous vocal interplay resounds on ‘Mountaintops’. This might be alluded to lyrically as on ‘Maracas’ (‘Cut to the light/ when we’re both in time/ syncopated breathing’). It is also evident in a kind of musical reciprocity between them that is tight. Their sound is unique yet consistent working with instrumentation of organ and drum kit in such a way to sound larger and fuller than one might think for the two-instrument combo.
Opener ‘Palomino’ demonstrates this with Kori’s sparkling synth work and Jason’s steady drums. Throughout ‘Mountaintops’ Kori chooses varied organ sounds that change from processed synth to analog piano. The catchy guitar riff on ‘At Least I Have You’ sounds bluesy cool setting the song apart. Contrastingly, the indie Motown style of ‘Total Serendipity’ (another individual number) is catchy but wears a bit thin after multiple listens. ‘Changes’ comes off weak and a bit melodramatic so much that the record would be stronger without it. Lyrics generally come off down to earth but simple as on ‘Basement Money’ (‘Money we don’t need it/ Money is raining down upon us’).
Despite some lacking elements, ‘Mountaintops’ genuine essence of playful innocence works. And when they reach their peak (as on ‘Maracas’ and ‘At Least I Have You’) they hit it with a kind of infectious rhythm and easy natural magic that’s spot on.