Local Wire

Mates of State

It's hard to say whether Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, the married music makers known as Mates of State, have inspired more flat-out envy for making lovey-dovey, knowing glances at each other onstage, or for simply defying that old rule about romance dooming a band (Bring It Back is their fourth album, so they're doing something right). The duo's matrimonial glow seems to shine brightly on their entire songwriting process, providing endless, effortless pop fodder. But let's give them some credit, already. Listen beyond Gardner and Hammel's exuberant synth hooks, bold snare rhythms, and joyful, top-of-their-lungs vocal harmonies (most blatant on the unchained melody of "Like U Crazy"), and you'll discover that this relationship thrives on not taking anyone for granted, including listeners. "I just want to feel the taste of the meal and not the routine of dining here," they harmonize over layers of hopeful keyboard on "Beautiful Dreamer." Likewise, "For the Actor" slips in the admission "Don't want to make you grow numb," amid a triumphant march through fantasyland. A couple of the tracks stay true to earlier Mates of State releases with their spare beauty, but the album also plays with overdubs and more complex instrumentation, most notably on the rousing chorus of "Fraud in the '80s." Who knows if the fuller sound has anything to do with a bigger family (Gardner and Hammel recently had their first child)? One thing's certain, though: They sure make it look easy.