On Mates of State’s “Mountaintops”



Mates of State‘s latest release, 2011’s Mountaintops, has drawn disparate opinions from the musical powers that be. While Spin suggests that the duo’s forays into more soulful, minor key laments highlight the two lovers’ growing disillusionment, Pitchfork lauds the band’s success in creating their own caffeinated, sugar-coated niche. One idea, however, suffuses nearly all discourse on the album- exploration. The album is, if nothing else, evidence of significant discovery and growth, both personally and musically.

Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have long held a reputation for being adorable, as both a band and couple. Indeed, the continued strength of their relationship seems proven in the continued growth of their sound. While remnants of My Solo Project still characterize the duo’s disposition—I loved Bring it Back, but it’s great to hear Gardner taking advantage of the electric organ again—Mountaintops reflects a new level of maturity in both lyricism and harmony. Atmospheric drones wash over simple vocal hooks in the chorus of “Palomino,” conjuring impressions of shoegazers like Asobi Seksu, yet “Maracas” assures the listener that Gardner and Hammel still communicate best through ebullient, appropriately saccharine variations in rhythmic texture and sly homages to unlikely muses.

The real jewels on the album are those tracks that highlight the tumult that even the healthiest relationships face. The contemplative “Unless I’m Led,” while still firmly grounded in Ab Major, is the first slow jam on the album (even with a very busy drumline) and almost sounds like a break-up song. “At Least I Have You” is an unusually minor, upbeat testament to the fact that love does not guarantee happiness. Texturally similar to something by Tokyo Police Club, I’m thinking specifically of “Nature of the Experiment,” the track is a breath of salty ocean air after eating a bunch of those gross Valentine’s Day hearts.

If you haven’t seen the rotoscope-tastic video for ‘Palomino’ yet, check it out below. Seems like that theme of exploration was a pretty conscious move. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txFFd5IKqQ0&feature=artist[/youtube]

Go exploring with Mates of State this Friday at 6:30.

posted by Forrest Wu