Mates Of State - Re-Arrange Us
Record Label: Barsuk Records
Release Date: May 20, 2008
Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel must have superhuman levels of energy. Raising two children requires a lot of patience and energy and the fact this husband and wife duo can still release a steady stream of consistently solid indie pop and tour extensively should make just about anyone reading this review feel like a complete slacker. At least I feel that way since I usually complain about having to get out of bed for one early morning class. While most articles and reviews tend to focus on the domestic side of Mates Of State, this review being no different, the most important thing about Mates Of State is their ability to craft infectious pop melodies seemingly at will.
Re-Arrange Us, the group’s fifth full-length effort, begins with the single “Get Better” which leads in with Gardner’s soothing vocals and a steady build up marked by piano melodies, steady percussion, and subtle string accompaniment layered underneath. Lurking behind this more reserved and layered approach lies some of the strongest melodies Gardner and Hammel have ever recorded. For all the criticism Mates Of State receive for being “too bland”, one can easily dispel those notions after a viewing or two of the music video for this track which features a slightly surreal party in which all of the people are wearing animal masks. Another shining moment is “Jigsaw” which features cameos from Chris Walla and Ben Gibbard. The call and response vocal delivery between Gardner and Hammel is executed to perfection and once again exhibits the growth in their abilities to craft memorable pop melodies.
While most of the songs on Re-Arrange Us are peppy that highlight Mates Of States melodic chops, there are some tracks that highlight the band’s slightly more serious side. “Blue and Gold Print” is marked by melancholic piano notes and subtle backing percussion, while the chorus finds Gardner and Hummel’s vocals soaring over the slow moving pace. “Lullaby Haze” is one of the best tracks to highlight the new path taken by Mates Of State. This track finds Kori Gardner handling a bulk of the vocal responsibilities herself and she is accompanied by stately piano melodies and majestic cello undertones provided by Linnea Weiss, who also lends her talents to two other tracks on Re-Arrange Us.
Re-Arrange Us is not so much a drastic departure from the elements that made their past records so great, but rather an evolution. Gardner has traded in her trusty organ in favor of the piano and rather than relying heavily on their drum and keys formula, they have decided to bring in more instruments to further flesh out their sound. While some fans may mourn the absence of the organ, the most important part of Mates Of State’s sound, the melodies and vocal harmonies, have only become stronger and more infectious. Sure, Re-Arrange Us may not exactly be revolutionizing the traditional indie-pop format, but the album is chock full of fun pop songs that will have you clapping and singing along with reckless abandon for a majority of the summer. This album marks the beginning of an exciting new model of Mates Of State and it should be interesting to see what tricks they have up their sleeves for the future.