Mates of State Climb High on “Mountaintops”

Mates of State
Barsuk (2011)

So what do we have here in the new Mates of State offering, Mountaintops?

Honestly, something so confectionary and fun on the ears that I almost can’t stand it, but what do you expect from the seemingly impossibly in love husband-and-wife duo of Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner?

Drums and keyboards surrounded by a shiny gauze of he/she pop harmonies at an almost celestial level? Yes. Complementary is an understatement as only some seriously like-minded individuals can pull this stuff off and make it so you don’t feel the unrestrained urge to hurl. Mountaintops smacks three back-to-back-to-back pop gems that are air on the tongue and light to the visuals: opener “Palamino” goes aerial with its chorus, and at its literal half point grounds itself in Hammel’s percussion, “Maracas” is that thing that should be a pleasure of guilt but then you yell “Fuck that!” because it’s so damned well done, and “Sway” simply does.

Where Mates of State excel is probably where others fail (Matt & Kim); while gleefully earnest throughout, there is no lack of depth and true lyrical poignancy in their indie/pop craft. Because it’s not all sunshine and seashells on Mountaintops; it’s just that Hammel and Gardner are delightful enough to make it feel like so. In “Basement Money”, where the struggle of where art meets financial compensation is tackled, the urge to groove is no less present than in “Total Serendipity” which is a crash course in noise-pop (yes, that’s brass you hear in the rear); somewhat jangly, but emotionally upwardly mobile. When the mood tempers, some of the human trials and tribulations of married and music making-life are excavated: “Unless I’m Led” has an almost lullaby quality, and the album closer, “Mistakes”, leaves something slightly unsettled in hearing the lyrics “”I need you, but it’s not normal if I refuse to be by myself.” 
All things in Mountaintops compose an album that sounds like a genuine partnership of fun and artful confessional upon their usual sound canvas of harmonies, subtle textures, and pretty pictures are painted. Nothing to rock out to here, folks, but plenty to make the head and heart bob.