Mates of States
For tiresome old music critics like myself, it’s somewhat interesting and even encouraging that many so-called “indie” artists of late have demonstrated an unabashed return to melody. And structure. Gee, kids, weren’t such conscientious considerations once smugly tossed aside as “pretentious"?
I suspect Bay Area-based Kansas natives Mates of State probably don’t think that way. Members Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel play practically all the instruments (mainly synthesizers and drums) themselves, having determined long ago that “full” bands are simply too big a hassle. The duo’s latest CD release features 10 cuts, each demonstrating an impressive knack for melodic structure and harmony.
The almost Mannheim Steamroller-esque opening to “Hoarding It for Home” sets up a deceptive toyland ambience. But the lyrics demonstrate a keen grasp of life’s little contradictions: “Never once settle down/Everyone settle down.” From “10 Years Later” to the horn lick on “über Legitimate” and so on, with its sudden time shifts and subtly elaborate structures, in a weird way the Mates remind me of Yes but without that group’s occasionally grandiose pomposity. Talk about pretentious!