May 29, 2008

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Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us
Barsuk Records, May 20
Ambitious alt-pop from Kansas married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. The songs are more geared to radio than the random cut-and-paste mismatches that made up their older material, not to say that everything fits according to the book, but then again they want Conan O’Brien, not Snobby McWinesniffer Recommends Classics. The melancholy blend of shoegaze and twee on “Get Better” is nothing new, and there was no need to slather it in cello to translate the mood. Being as how the pair’s shtick has been characterized historically by unconventional keyboards, the weirdly percolated R2-D2 synth line of “Now” is an instant imporvement, something that might have been thunk up by Ace of Base’s handlers to get them back on the map. Driving gymnastics-piano and a pleasantly robotic vocal line move “My Only Offer” into a class where even its glocknspiel can’t bring it down; “The Rearranger” invites further Ace of Base comparisons even while it could just as well have been an Abba remix. B-Eric W. Saeger