Mountaintops by Mates of State
Mates of State is Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, who have recently celebrated a decade of marriage, all of which they have spent making music together. This immediately sets them apart from the wave of indie-pop matrimonial duos sending out endless good vibrations—they are lasting and believable. It’s really no grand surprise that the band appeared on the bright, quirky and weirdly wonderful children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba in 2010 singing a tune called “No one Likes to be Left Out.” Listeners should expect this kind of positivity from a band that has named their latest album Mountaintops (2011) after an old Zen saying “Aim for Cold Mountain.” The idea here is to continually be moving forward, and that is exactly what Hammel and Gardner have been doing.
Mountaintops truly brings listeners back to Mates of State’s 2006 release Bring it Back, one of their most celebrated albums yet. Bring it Back is loaded with energy and songs perfect for a twee dance party such as “Think Long” and “Like U Crazy.” This same level of liveliness is noted in Mountaintops. The two most important tracks on this album are “Palomino” and “Maracas,” the former of which starts the album off on a very strong note with a massive celestial sound that forces your limbs to move about in strange dance. The listener may also find themselves shouting lines like “We were wild and living, wild and living!” or “You know you’re not in hell!” Gardner tosses in plenty of “woo hoos” for good measure.
However, bits of the album are confusing, like the track “Total Serendipity,” which sounds vaguely like the feel-good song of the late 80’s “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. This isn’t entirely strange since both are bursting with optimism, but the overall sound sticks out like a sore thumb against the rest of the album. Although Mates of State certainly takes listeners back to the 1980s, it’s more of a synth-pop sound much like the second track on Mountaintops “Sway.” Other parts of the album are just sub-par with slower and less developed tracks like “Desire” and “Mistakes.” Regardless, the duo manages to muster plenty of pep on the track “Change,” lending us a chin-up by repeating “Change is gonna come and it’s gonna set you free.”
Admittedly, I consider Mates of State to be my pop-indulgence, as I’m not always too proud to be blaring their hyperactive tunes in traffic. However, that’s also part of the appeal; they could easily substitute for coffee on a Monday morning (with an additional pep talk). For some, this happiness inducing album might be too much to stomach, but others will say it’s wild and living, wild and living.