MATES OF STATE SOUNDS like love. That's an abstract idea, but stay with me and it'll play out. Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel are the two behind this happy, joyous, loving group. Gardner plays keyboards and sings; Hammel drums and matches vocals.
The simple arrangement works because of their relationship. There aren't any shadows cast by a dominant member. They sound perfectly balanced—it's hard to separate one from the other. It's like those couples you know in your life that seem perfectly matched. Where one's light, the other's dark; where one's weak, the other's strong—it's the same dynamic that makes Mates of State work so well. They don't perpetuate any ambiguous bullshit about the distinction of their relationship. These two are clearly, as Beyoncé says, crazy in love, and that's the undercurrent that drives everything in their euphoric (but not overly saccharine), melodic pop songs.
Their newest album, Bring it Back, sounds a bit more mature than 2003's Team Boo, but not too much and not in a bad way. On track nine, "Punchlines," they're singing "it's not the same without you around" and then it progresses to the head-nodding refrain "get into the car and you aim it at the sun/get into the car and you point it at the west." It repeats, louder, warmer, floating you out of the house and gone, headed to the Pacific for a springtime silver-and-pink 8-bit sunset.
They seem to have progressed organically into a more sophisticated sound that's less ecstatic, like when those first days of constant sex turn into more time spent together. (Like when it starts to feel like "making love," though that's such a dubious expression.) You're comfortable sharing the understanding that the person you're with loves you, sitting on the beach in two lawn chairs and smiling. It's better than it was, the uncertainty is gone, it gets better every day, and you feel like you made the right choice, and, more than anything, you're happy together.