Album Review

Mates of State "Mountaintops"

Matthew MacDonald
Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have always had two things in common: their love of music and their love for each other. After 10 years of marriage and two children, Mates of State return with their 7th studio album, Mountaintops. Released shortly after the release of their cover album, Crushes, Mountaintops seems to be a fitting farewell for the end of summer.

I had first heard of Mates of State via an NPR special. It was the winter of 2006. They were playing to a live audience in between an Ira Glass’ oration. I was completely blown away! It was just drums, keyboards and vocals. The songs were pop songs and the best part about them? They sounded sincerely happy.

The difference between a Mates of State ‘pop song’ and any other pop song is very subtle. Every other pop song has a tendency to sound like it was cut out of plastic. The result is a one sided song that sounds emotional without having any emotion in it. A Mates of State pop song sounds like it was birthed from someone else. It sounds alive and it seems happy that it is.

Since my initial discovery, they have consistently given us the same effort. While there is something to be said for sticking with a formula that works, quite frankly, I’m a little disappointed. There hasn’t been any noticeable musical growth in the 5 years that I have known about their existence.

The album’s opener, Palomino showed promise but every track after that simply struck me as a reiteration of their previous work: more happy pop songs.

You would think that celebrating a 10th wedding anniversary combined with the adjustment necessary to be a parent to a life that you have brought into the world would have issued some sort of creative change in either Ms. Gardner or Mr. Hammel. Sadly, this is not the case. While I must say that, by Mates of State standards, this is a good album, I must also say that it’s just as good as any of their previous work.

70/100