It's safe to say that rock duo Mates of State's Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have the market cornered in the vocal-driven, dreamy-pop-ditty department. The husband/wife team blends soaring harmonies and churns out lyrics that read like modern poetry. They accompany their musings with a 1971 Electone organ (played by Gardner) and a set of drums (Hammel), with vocal and keyboard arrangements that, oddly, occasionally venture into territory that was occupied by Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman (of Yes fame) 35 years ago.
Gardner and Hammel have experimented with new drum and keyboard sounds on their latest release, Bring It Back, but the resulting ten tracks really don't stray far from the groove that brought them to indie prominence. But this time, rather than crafting quirky snippets of sounds together in wide-eyed amazement, they have matured as songwriters and given the music and lyrics a cohesiveness missing in previous efforts. While singing dual harmony parts for virtually all of the lyrics is still the underpinning of the Mates' success -- we'd like to see Jack and Meg try that one -- the vocals on Bring It Back often take divergent paths and give the music some breathing room for a change.
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The arrival of their first child sped up the recording process on Bring It Back, but more work seems to have been put into the arrangements. The lead-off track, "Think Long," has Gardner's musings sprinkled over Hammel's repetitive refrain, "Get on, or get out," which comes across like what might happen when a man and woman in a relationship grow apart and are saying things without listening to each other. Meanwhile, the second track, "Fraud in the '80s," seems to be a deliberate punch to the noggin for anyone who figures this cute little twosome -- a couple that, by the way, conceived their child in the most rock and roll manner possible, bonking backstage after opening for Death Cab for Cutie -- has no idea how to rock out.