Mates of State

Mates of State's patented keys-and-drums pop gets something of a makeover on their aptly titled fifth album, last month's Re-Arrange Us. Spouses Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel still swoon and overlap vocals every chance they get, but the crunchy vintage organ of earlier records is often replaced by piano. It's a statelier and more sedate vibe, although the opaque, bittersweet lyrics remain an effective foil to the duo's happy harmonies. And no matter how atmospheric the production grows, there's always a squirrelly energy to Mates of State's songs. Case in point: The orchestral influence and in-studio tweaking doesn't dampen the insistence of "Help Help." The new songs also build more steadily, from the dramatic opener "Get Better," to the cool synth sheen of the punchy "Now." None of which, of course, will alienate longtime fans who keep coming back to the band for chirping melodies, ultrakinetic drumming and one of the most infectious vocal tag-teams in the business. Plus, after having two kids, Gardner and Hammel are more adorable than ever.

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Wallen. Doug