Mates of State have been around making quality records for a while now, so coming out with a new release that keeps up the tradition is welcome, but not surprising. What is surprising is how similar their material is becoming. I hadn’t noticed until I listened to this record for the tenth time, but it’s basically the same as Re-Arrange Us or Team Boo. What’s even more surprising is that I really don’t give a shit, because good music is good music, even if it’s a bit repetitive.
Jason and Kori do try a couple things to differentiate Mountaintops from their prior releases. One track features some surfrock-like guitar, another one injects a little jazz, and my favorite new trick is a little rhythm and blues on the song “Total Serendipity.” Other than that, if you’ver heard Mates of State before, there won’t be any big surprises here.
One thing I’ve always found compelling about this duo is how much they harmonize. It seems like 90 percent of the record is sung by both of them, and it works. It’s one of those things I would find annoying, but they pull it off every time. Honestly, my favorite part of Mountaintops comes at the end, in the song “Mistakes,” where Kori has a single line that she delivers so perfectly, any problems I have with the record fade away.
For a married couple to be in a band together, especially when it’s just the two of them, has got to be a little weird. When you listen to the songs on Mountaintops (and every other release), it’s almost like the music is their form of couples therapy. There are a ton of couples out there in bands or duos who, but I don’t think any of them take the lyrics to the level these two do. In the song I mentioned above, the lyrics are not overly complicated, but speak truthfully:
I stepped over the line
But whose side are you on
I know where I stand
I need you
But it’s not normal if I refuse
To be by myself
It’s hard for me to argue the fact that the first half of this record is pretty good, but I think starting at track 5, “Total Serendipity,” through to the end is much stronger than the pop-heavy first few songs. Not that there’s anything wrong with the beginning of the record, I’m just drawn more to the contemplative side of things, and I find the second half more interesting. I can honestly say that I enjoy every song on Mountaintops, and I love a couple of them. The last two tracks really close the album out well.
For fans, you already know you’re getting this, but I can tell you that you won’t be disappointed. As far as the uninitiated go, you may as well start here. I would recommend Re-Arrange Us first, but this is as good a starting off point as any.
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