Duo releases lackluster album with promise

Ben Breier

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

When you think about good pop music, you don’t often think about the incorporation of an organ intertwined with husband-and-wife vocalization.

However, in the case of Mates of State, this is exactly what you’ve got.

On “Fraud in the ’80s,” Kori Gardner and Jason Hammell deliver one of the most annoying pop songs in recent memory. The irony? The band sings about being “pleasing to your ears” while producing a truly awful track. The organ drowns out the vocals most of the time, and Gardner’s vocals give a true sense of being attention-starved. Like the drama club geek that was ignored by most of her peers in high school, Gardner still has a hard time getting people to notice her.

Mates of State

Bring It Back

Released on Barsuk

Stater rating (out of five): **

However, when you drop the overpowering organs for a moment, the tracks become so much better. “What It Means” sounds like an indie-pop influenced Ben Folds. When Mates of State elects to change out the organ for the piano, it’s a haphazard trade – by swapping out the organ, the band loses a sense of identity, but by incorporating the piano, the quality of their music improves dramatically. “Nature And The Wreck” kicks the Ben Folds comparisons up a notch – a cello comes in, and Gardner is finally given the attention she’s been vying for. Mates of State seriously needs to consider kicking the organ to the curb – the band does the melancholy melody routine much better.

Bring It Back, the group’s fourth album, doesn’t deviate very much from the band’s previous records. While the record has a couple of redeeming qualities, it isn’t enough to justify a purchase on the behalf of anybody except for long-time Mates of State fans.

Contact assistant ALL editor Ben Breier at [email protected].