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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Mates of State
Bring it Back
Barsuk

Rating: 8/10 ?


June 19, 2006
From the Beatles to Pavement, great writers have always utilized the magnetic allure of a great pop hook. Some bands bury them under a brittle rock surface, The Rolling Stones and Nirvana being great examples of such a tactic. Others will wear them on their sleeves, relishing in their bite; welcome to the world of Mates Of State, the husband and wife team of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. Bring it Back, duo's fourth release, is pure unabashed pop. Nothing but hum-along melodies sung with determination by primary vocalist Gardner, a beautiful blend of Aimee Mann and Stars singer Amy Millan. The album is obviously influenced by The Beach Boys, Liz Phair, The Bangles, B-52's, Tears for Fears and Postal Service, and while it has little ambition of shaping music's future, it would also be a disservice to label it a boring tribute to pop's past and present.

Bring it Back's songwriting is exceptionally strong, with an effortless flow over the 10 tracks. Paying homage to the wound-up synths and beats of the Eighties, the duo play it pretty straight. But what makes this record such a great listen is that there is always slightly more than meets the ear, both musically and lyrically. Plush harmonies are accompanied by fluid piano, layered organ and steady drumming, and the album is enhanced by crisp production. The energy created between the pair is reminiscent of another great family duo, Fiery Furnaces.

"For the Actor" is a rollicking beauty with graceful interlocking vocals between the two. "Nature and the Wreck" would be right at home on Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, a solo piano arpeggio accompanying the angelic voice of Gardner. "So Many Ways," Bring it Back's standout track, is an anthemic march that provides a great backdrop to poetic lyrics: "there are only so many ways/ to float upon the sea/ it makes no difference to me," while the album's closer "Running Out" is another coup, a melancholy repeating chorus that slowly builds into a cascade of vocals.

It is remarkable that a record with this many "oohs and aahs" can be so meaningful; but Gardner and Hammel exhibit flawless juxtaposition, and it works wonders. The pair have served up an immensely satisfying pop platter, with zero filler. This is no bubbly Idol bouncing about on a wafer thin foundation. This is rousing pop distilled down to its molecular structure, executed with confidence. Bring it Back and Mates of State deserve the attention of America.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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