Mates Of State

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
My Solo Project (2000), 6.5/10
Our Constant Concern (2002), 5/10
Team Boo (2003), 5.5/10
Bring It Back (Barsuk, 2006), 6/10
Rearrange Us (2008), 5.5/10
Mountaintops (2011), 5/10

Mates Of State, originally from Kansas but relocated to San Francisco, are the duo of drummer Jason Hammel and keyboardist Kori Gardner. My Solo Project (Omnibus, 2000) offered gentle pop for boy/girl harmonies that leveraged the romantic atmospheres crafted by vintage keyboards (Throw Down, Nice Things That Look Good). Subsequent albums Our Constant Concern (Polyvinyl, 2002) and Team Boo (Polyvinyl, 2003) were less engaging because of less catchy material and a tendency to repeat the same pattern and the same theme (a public display of affection).

All Day (Polyvinyl, 2004) is a four-song EP.

The married couple (now also parents) perfected their pop craft on Bring It Back (Barsuk, 2006), particularly the bouncy Think Long and Beautiful Dreamer, but adult balladry was beginning to creep from under the teenage fun (the lengthy closer, Running Out). A more aggressive and slick sound lent their poppy songs for vocals and keyboards a second life. For the Actor was the single.

There was little innovation on Rearrange Us (2008), other than more horns and more strings. Several songs are graceful and one or two are catchy (You Are Free). The songwriting is as fluid as it has ever been. But the whole is just the sum of the parts: classy routine.

All their albums should have been EPs, and none more so than Mountaintops (2011), that includes two of their melodic gems (Palomino, and Maracas), the touching melodrama Unless I'm Led and the lively Motown rave-up Total Serendipity amid an impressive number of faceless, bland, repetitive, trivial songs.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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