Mates Of State – Mountaintops

Mates Of State – Mountaintops

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Just when you think you have Mates Of State all figured out, they create something like “Total Serendipity.” Although keyboardist Kori Gardner is the instrumental driving force in this duo, and upbeat synth-pop tunes like “Maracas” provide the best representative examples of what this pair likes to do, “Total Serendipity” is nearly a total stylistic departure. It’s nothing if not a foot-stomping, black gospel filtered through intelligent indie pop.

Lyrically speaking, the tracks on Mountaintops are mostly relatively straightforward pop songs — but that doesn’t mean these musicians are hesitant at all to let a little of the mystery be. Just what they mean by “syncopated breathing” on “Maracas,” is not clear – even if you’ve been through a Lamaze class a time or two. “Palomino” is a wonderful, upbeat tune, but there’s still some mental blanks to fill in regarding its horse-associated title as well as why they make a special point to say “You know you’re not in hell.”

Gardner is also this act’s primary vocalist, and she is a fine singer well fit for the job — particularly when paired with Hammel’s less refined but well placed harmonic support. Their voices blend together particularly well during “Unless I’m Led,” as they weave in and out of each other — almost as though they’re singing in a round.

Standing out in the pack, “Total Serendipity” is a thing of true beauty. This recording pulls out all the stops. There’s organ. There are handclaps. There are even horns. Like most true gospel music, this song is filled with inspirational, encouraging lyrics: “You’re a pot of gold/ And you’re sitting in the rainbow’s end,” they sing — like a fairytale come true.

Mates Of State music may not be the rainbow’s end. However, if it’s the place where you find yourself at the end of a journey any length or intensity, well, that’s not a bad thing, mate.


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