Mates Of State
Our Constant Concern
Sometimes your new favorite record whispers its charms to you. It spins unnoticed four or five times before you realize it has become indispensable. Other times, it’ll yell out quite clearly, and after one listen, you know you have a new buddy. Occasionally, one will brain you on the cranium with an antelope thighbone and drag you by the hair back to its cave.
Yes indeed, Our Constant Concern is one of those last ones, a type of album which only appears two or three times a year. A beautiful sense of space to their arrangements makes Mates Of State’s songs fade from the simple to the densely-produced without visible cut lines or pixellation. A minimal handful of rockisms — drums, piano, lovely gouts of drenched organ — are bracketed by male/female vocal harmonies which seem to wander around with only the corner of an eye to keep on one another. It’s simply stunning what a racket this duo (Kori on keyboards, Jason on drums) can make. Like The Dismemberment Plan and The Promise Ring, Mates Of State have a nose for that weirdo melody that fits perfectly on top of uncomfortable chording, and a penchant for messing with the beat count. While each of these bands has its own unique combination of elements, they do share that talent for forging soul out of precision… it’s not so much Math Rock as it is Mafia Bookkeeping: dark, complicated, creative. Some bands seem to carefully meter out their musical ideas, but Mates Of State have no problem opening the floodgates: although it clocks in at little over a half-hour, Our Constant Concern features enough originality to last most other bands for three or four albums.
Lyrically, Mates Of State have a knack for dancing around the fringe of comprehension; the individual sentences make sense, but they don’t always follow each other logically. However, the end result is a general gut feeling of what everything is about — in this way, they remind me a lot of They Might Be Giants.
High points on here include “Quit Doin’ It,” which starts with an engaging vocal rondo before bursting into a triumphant verse like the sun through a rainstorm. “Halves and Have-nots” starts with a delicate harmony — “I know you’re not playing around/But I know you will…” — before crashing down on a driving beat and a syncopated vocal dance. “Uber Legitimate” is not so much down-tempo as sprawling, reminiscent of Wheat’s Hope And Adams with its majestic chords and mercuric mood changes.
I could just blabber on and on about this album, and I’d be wasting your valuable time, time which could be spent purchasing and listening to Our Constant Concern.