Mates of State is playing tonight in Richmond and I am not there. I am an idiot. I want to cry.
Let me start by saying that all in all, I cannot imagine liking a married couple who makes music together. Sonny and Cher, okay, they were badass (as badass as hippie folk can be), and The Welcome Wagon (Sufjan’s pastor friend and his wife) are pretty precious, but generally I feel like married people are way too into each other to be good musicians together. And who can blame them?
However, Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have taken my previous notion of married musicians and dashed them to pieces against the rocks. They have an adorable little story about how they met in Kansas and started being all cute and creative and got married and play music together and are even going on tour with Black Kids (Black Kids!). Now they have kids. Lord. And their Music.Is.Fantastic. They even sing about marriage, for goodness’ sake, and they are still brilliant. Let’s talk about why.
Mates of State released Re-Arrange Us in May 2008 on the label Barsuk, and in my opinion, this album should be on all y’all’s “Best of 2008” lists (just trying to get into the Kansas spirit). The synth + drum + voice combo is a great one, providing a unique layered feel–what they like to call their “trademark wall of sound.” Their structure makes sense and flows naturally, but it’s still unexpected and full of almost nervous energy. “Now” is a perfect example of this, beginning with Kori’s laid-back, moving vocals into a jittery chorus. The sound and energy continue to build after the second chorus into what really is a “wall of sound.” More choppy rhythms sprinkle “Help Help,” countered with melodic verses and gradual crescendo.
Added to the fluctuating melodic structure, the Kori/Jason harmonies are beautiful. They add depth to the caffeine-induced sections like those in “Now” and “Help Help,” and they stand out in “slower,” more flowing songs like “Get Better” and “Lullaby Haze.” Perhaps the most poignant use of their lovely harmonies occurs in songs like “Blue and Gold Print,” “The Re-Arranger,” and “My Only Offer,” which allow the listener a small window into what it truly is to love someone and to choose to continue loving them even when you hit a wall that is not a wall of sound. If true art happens at the point of connection (does it?), then Mates of State is doing something very right. “My Only Offer” talks about struggles in the midst of “two kids, two car delight.” They sing together, “My friends they all agree/give into our defeat/in secret we believe/we’re nothing nothing nothing that we need.” And still, they’re singing together. Am I just a sap, or is there something incredibly beautiful about their ability to make music through the ups and downs of building a life together? Yeah, you know I’m not a sap.
Kori + Jason = Mates of State = fantastic harmonies + interesting structure + emotional connection with the listener = ART
That’s the only kind of math I know how to do. Oh! Also! Cutest thing you will hear this week (and I hate babies): Kori’s blog is called “Band on the Diaper Run.” PRECIOUS. And Jason has a Twitter. The coolness here is seriously too much for me and I’m getting distracted by their music videos/thoughts about how I’m missing their concert. I know I’m being very demanding today, but CHECK THEM OUT.