It must be summer if the orgasmic pop of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel is once again beaming its bikini-a-go-go from the ocean paradise of … Stratford, Conn. The duo, known since the late ’90s as Mates of State, are like well-read friends with a biting sensibility, able to immerse themselves fully in shoegaze detachment but making the conscious decision to write like they’re playing a beachy spring break show anyway. It’s this bravery within sincerity that seems to open a portal that only Mates of State can enter, and all the secrets of melodic ear glue are exposed, having been left there by Elton John and, for a very brief period, the Polyphonic Spree.
Re-Arrange Us, despite its title, sticks to what they know but this time the stakes seem higher than on their last outing, the excellent and slightly more electro-infused Bring It Back. Whereas two years ago the country was firmly ensconced in the Middle East’s tar pit, this time a ray of hope isn’t blind denial; it has an arrival date (let’s say mid-November). The burden of MOS’ joy is more pure this time and less easily confused with irony.
On the overwhelming opener, “Get Better,” the defiance is self-evident. “Everything’s gonna get lighter/Even if it never gets better,” shouts Gardner. “Forget all your politics for a while/Let the color schemes arrive.” The ’70s piano-bop of “The Re-Arranger,” with its breathless layers of fuzz and backing vocals, is a timeless slice of indie-love apple pie. On the uptempo “Help Help,” a distorted organ lends gravitas to the tipping point. “Can’t you feel the shifting of the stale air?” is the song’s hypothetical question; if Mates of State hadn’t been progressing toward this kind of outing for years now, that question could serve as the only review Re-Arrange Us needs.