Mates of State | Mountaintops

Barsuk (2011)
By RYAN REED  |  September 13, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars

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"You know you're not in hell." Those are the first words you hear on "Palomino," the synth-pop miracle that opens Mates of States' seventh full-length. A pretty accurate — if slightly unpromising — calling card. As the sequenced synths and handsome beats unfold, matched in merriment by the husband-and-wife vocals of Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, your mind is miles away from the raging fires of the underworld. As always, they know their way around a glossy pop hook ("Maracas," "Sway"), but Mates of State are equally skilled with organic texture. The keys often sound as though they were laid down by real-life humans, and Hammel's live beats are dense and propulsive — as on the showstopping "Unless I'm Led," where the duo's call-and-response vocals morph into hypnotic chants over Gardner's soulful Fender Rhodes. Mountaintops, following up their awkwardly received covers mixtape (2010's Crushes), is the ecstatic sound of a band re-discovering their love of songcraft. There's nothing here you haven't heard them do before, and sometimes the songs are more cute than interesting; "At Least I Have You" nearly evaporates in its own bland bubbliness, and the laughably bad ballad "Changes" tries its hand at vague protests. But that's mostly grouchy nitpicking — this album is infectious.
  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Mates of State, Mates of State,  More more >
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