Mates of State start out strong but their sound gets simpler and simpler the further you go into their latest, Re-Arrange Us. The husband-and-wife duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have been putting out records this entire decade, and their latest doesn’t exactly change up Mates of State’s ultra-bright vocals/keys/drums sound. One will find more of a dancetronica air to Re-Arrange Us, which gives it a nice sheen. But the closer one looks, the less that is there.
However, the record starts off strong with its top two tracks, “Get Better” and “Now”. “Get Better” just gets better as it grows into a grand anthem (akin to the far more crowded outfit, Polyphonic Spree). But “Now” is Re-Arrange Us’ top track, as its carrying brightness can get to everybody. From there, however, the album starts to slide. The following “My Only Offer” is nice in its shine, but simple, and Mates of State’s catchy sound gets even simpler with “The Re-Arranger”.
At least that track benefits from some interesting vocal hooks from Hammel. The shine has worn off by “Jigsaw”, and “Blue and Gold Print” is just downright banal. While that’s the record’s nadir, nothing on the second half comes close to matching the high points of “Get Better” and “Now”. The dance nature of “Help Help” puts it above “Jigsaw” and “Print”, but only just, and the same can be said for the backwards effects on “You Are Free” and shiny drive of “Great Dane”. Finisher “Lullaby Haze” is really the only place where Mates of State try to get more complicated, as Kori goes higher with her vocals on the more orchestral piece, and, while it’s better, the duo doesn’t quite have the chops to pull it off.
If one doesn’t listen too closely, Re-Arrange Us can be a nice spin, with its bright nature picking up your spirits. But on further inspection, there’s something lacking. The Lawrence, Kansas-born band, having long since left Middle America, are returning home for the Wakarusa Music Festival. Maybe they can find their ‘there’ there.
MP3 Stream: “Now”