Cover illustration of the Queenslander magazine, April 2, 1931
I'll always have a special place in my heart for Mates of State for two reasons: (1) 2003's Team Boo is close to (if not at) the pinnacle of post-2000 indie-pop and is one of the most underrated albums of the 2000s, and (2) I once went to a Mates of State gig where they stopped playing after a couple of songs and took the whole crowd to the Lightning Bolt gig next door because it was killing them that they were missing it. The Mates of State (Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel) have gotten some flak over the last two albums they released on Barsuk (2006's Bring It Back and 2008's Re-Arrange Us), but I found quite a few things to like about those records. But I was pretty psyched when the new Mates of State album started getting some good reviews - could it be as good a comeback record as everyone says, to a guy who didn't think they needed a comeback?
Yeah - Mountaintops is really good. It starts with three songs in a row that have more fun packed into them than anything the Mates of State have done since 2003 ("Palomino", "Maracas", and "Sway"). The next song, a leaden ballad called "Unless I'm Led" drags the album down a bit - the band's always had trouble with its down-tempo numbers, although the album's other ballad "Desire" fares quite a bit better. The album's only other weak track is "Change", which skews too far in the other direction, with all the shrill, shouty energy of a pre-schooler. The album's got plenty of other worthy tracks, though, the bouncy "Total Serendipity" and the spy-theme-guitar-inflected "At Least I Have You" being among the best. My official stance is that they were never really fading, but I'm hearing more interesting musical ideas from the Mates of State on Mountaintops than I've heard in quite some time, and I can practically see them smiling as they sing.
"Palomino" by Mates of State