Mates of State
When husband-and-wife team Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner — better known as Mates of State — released their debut full-length, My Solo Project, in 2000, it was much easier to think of the duo as a self-indulgent novelty. C’mon — they’re married, they sing sugary-sweet pop songs to each other, and their band has the word mates in its name? How precious. But there has always been one characteristic that keeps every sensible critic from writing off this holy matrimony altogether — the Mates create some of the most perfect indie pop out there. Although it doesn’t seem possible, the songwriting on Bring It Back is even more pristine, thanks in part to the addition of guitar and bass parts that create a fuller, more dynamic sound. At times, the lively call-and-response choruses (“Beautiful Dreamer”), fuzzy bass lines (“Fraud in the ’80s”) and fixating changes in dynamics (“Think Long”) make it hard to distinguish between this and other bands of the same vein, most notably the New Pornographers or the Polyphonic Spree. But the Mates are no copycat act — if anything, they’re the genuine article. What’s love got to do with it? Maybe nothing. But in Mates of State’s case, it certainly hasn’t hurt.