Mates of State
Mountaintops


3.0
good

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
September 8th, 2011 | 21 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: That awkward dinner together when you realize you already know everything you care to know about your date.

It’s already difficult enough for me to convince my girlfriend to watch Man vs. Food when another interminable episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is drawing her into its manicured claws, and we haven’t been together for over a decade nor released seven studio albums of quality indie pop. Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner have, and while I can’t say anything about their divergent television interests, I can imagine that years of touring and stressful studio sessions would create their fair share of tension. Hell, Matt & Kim have only been together since 2005, yet anyone who has seen them live can attest they have already resorted to crystal meth to maintain their relationship. Mates of State, meanwhile, have shown nary a crack, and neither has their music – bucolic, airy indie pop album after indie pop album. Seventh album Mountaintops does little to change this formula, to the point where perhaps a better title would have been Plateaus.

It’s a testament to their ability to keep working with each other that Mountaintops starts off with one of their strongest songs to date in the vibrant “Palomino,” which reinforces everything that makes Mates of State veteran masters of their craft. Gardner and Hammel’s so-perfect-it-was-destined harmonies, their motley array of instruments that require a good deal of studio tinkering and a general sense of cheer in the air that falls just short of twee. “We were born on the other side, we were wild and living,” the duo intone together, and if there’s a song that lyrically seems to deny all of Mates of State’s ethos, it’s this one. Mates of State have never been wild nor daring, and for all “Palomino’s” soaring hooks and feelings of wonderment, it’s still a quintessentially Mates of State song. The modes may change: you get your ‘80s-revival in the bouncy synths of “Maracas;” your groovy keyboard anthem in “Basement Money;” your down tempo ballad (with poignant horns of course) with “Desire.” In general, though, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Mates of State.

Actually, “Desire” stands out from the rest because it’s so good at flipping the Mates of State dynamic on its head – by being uncommonly introspective and wistful, it stands out like a sore thumb, particularly situated as it is right before the bombastic “Changes.” It’s where Mates of State surprises that Mountaintops really shines, on the thumping minor keys of “Unless I’m Led,” the strikingly emotional “Mistakes” and the album’s best track, the so-ridiculous-it-works Motown homage “Total Serendipity.” The jittery tempo and back-and-forth between Hammel and Gardner on the vocals give “Total Serendipity” almost a punk vibe, and the way things downshift into the chorus give the whole song a sense that anything can happen. These moments of stepping outside of the indie pop comfort zone are what give Mountaintops a bit of zest, but it’s also what makes the album less than a stellar affair. “Total Serendipity” and “Desire” are those little bits and pieces that hint at something greater; most everything else is, well, another Mates of State record. There’s something to be had there, for sure, like continuity and the fact that a couple can still make a great record fourteen years into everything and not sound like they hate each other. Until they decide to take more than the occasional risk, though, Mates of State will always be that cute couple that others always compliment on “how GOOD they look together!” but no one really wants to party with.



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user ratings (10)
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good

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2011


10597 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

fuck off law school i'm trying to write reviews here

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2011


15083 Comments


boners

Eclecticist
September 8th 2011


3863 Comments


lol good summary

mallen-
September 8th 2011


1235 Comments


still might check this out

Digging: Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

iFghtffyrdmns
September 8th 2011


7047 Comments


frigg off, lahey

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2011


7321 Comments


Great review Klapper.

*mindpos*

dcha
September 9th 2011


990 Comments


This band has never created anything of value. They should change their name to The Blank Farts.

jonibonas
September 9th 2011


1 Comments


Nice

iFghtffyrdmns
September 9th 2011


7047 Comments


bonijonas

jeremologyy
September 9th 2011


275 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i am loving this album! i think it is sooo much better than Re-Arrange us. good review though. though i'd give it a whole point higher.

conradtao
Emeritus
September 9th 2011


2090 Comments


variation of "that awkward moment when.." ftl

seriously that shit stopped being relevant and/or funny at least five months ago

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2011


10597 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't know what the young kids are all talking about these days. Is that phrase not fly?

balcaen
September 9th 2011


3183 Comments


this band is that annoying indie couple. fuck these guys

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2011


10597 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

not as annoying as matt and kim

wabbit
September 9th 2011


7035 Comments


" we haven’t been together for over a decade nor released seven studio albums of quality indie pop"...yet

AggravatedYeti
September 9th 2011


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

bbbbboooorrrriiiiinnnnnggggggg album.

love this write up though Rudy especially the conclusion.

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2011


10597 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

rabbit i'll be sure to dedicate the first to you

wabbit
September 9th 2011


7035 Comments


man I don't deserve that. Though I do feel I deserve the pretentious, mid career crisis ep.

conradtao
Emeritus
September 9th 2011


2090 Comments


"Is that phrase not fly?"

ohohoho, i see what you did there

great write-up, though. think i'll steer clear of these mates

GulliKyro
September 13th 2011


357 Comments


They always felt like a poor mans Submarines to me.



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