Mates of State: Re-Arrange Us

The fifth album from the husband-wife duo sees a simple continuation upon their familiar and accessible version of indie-pop.

Mates of State

Re-Arrange Us

Label: Barsuk
US Release Date: 2008-05-20
UK Release Date: 2008-05-20

With dual vocal deliveries that can be as endearing as they are romantically contemplative and sparkling keyboard-led melodies that are most consistently found to be optimistically upbeat, Mates of State have basically echoed the way in which a husband-wife duo in the conventional realm of indie-pop are practically expected to sound. Like any couple in a state of rare romanticized bliss, their affection for one another has been heavily prevalent in both their lyrical and melodic tone, something that has proven to be charmingly enjoyable to some and persistently irritating to others. However, personal views aside, the primary reason Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have been releasing successful albums for nearly a decade can arguably be traced to the accessible form of pop music that they produce. Listening to Mates of State, listeners are never subjected to over-bloated production or attempts at styles that do not fit the group’s audible personality. Instead, the stylistic delivery found on their albums has always been predictably pleasurable, with the main variable having been simply the strength of the hooks.

Even when applied to the consistent styling of Mates of State, their fifth album, Re-Arrange Us, is hardly an ambitious effort. It offers the same type of collaborative songwriting that has treated the parents of two to substantial success, making it difficult to even blame them for sticking with the same techniques. Apart from the general tempo of the album being more subdued when compared to the likes of Bring It Back and Team Boo, the only noticeable transition the duo has made in is Gardner’s instrumental approach. Previously sporting her distinctive organ, Re-Arrange Us sees it replaced prominently with traditional piano and the occasional use of synth. Even this, though, is more superficially enabled, leaving little to do with the actual style presented.

On successes like “The Re-Arranger” and “My Only Offer”, the frequent fusion of piano with glimpses of synth, brass, and guitars provides for a few of the most memorable moments on the album. In what seems practically destined to be a single at some point, “The Re-Arranger” has a sense of both instrumental and melodic variation that embraces too few of the tracks found throughout Re-Arrange Us. Immediately spurred by halted percussion over an effervescent glow of horns and keys, both Gardner and Hammel often transition between reflective duets and vocal harmonizing throughout the song. Even though the chordal progression is simplistic, the duo’s trademark collaborative vocal techniques provide for an enthusiastically invigorating experience. Even when compared to their past efforts, “The Re-Arranger” is one of the best Mates of State tracks to date.

Unfortunately, when compared to the likes of “The Re-Arranger” and “My Only Offer”, the majority of Re-Arrange Us consists of faltered opportunities within songs that radiate with predetermined potential. “Now” could have been pulled off quite well with its infectious warbles of synth and vigorous entry of piano, but the bridge in which Gardner emphatically repeats the word “now” sounds too awkward and overbearing to prepare the listener for a worthwhile hook. Even when the bridge passes on by, the chorus lacks in variation from the preceding verse and makes for an all-too predictable affair. “Blue and Gold” falters from a similar approach in which a build-up that lasts several minutes leads to little more than additional variation in percussion, leading listeners on to a grandiose moment that simply never occurs. Tracks like “Get Better” and “Jigsaw” are typical Mates of State affairs with their repeating piano progressions and increasingly emphasized structural tendencies, even if they fail to reach the heights of better executed tracks on the preceding Bring It Back in the vein of “Like U Crazy” and “Beautiful Dreamer”.

Despite some worthwhile moments in efforts like “The Re-Arranger”, “My Only Offer”, and the serenely infectious “You Are Free”, the biggest fault in Re-Arrange Us lies in the duo’s inability this time around to capitalize upon original ideas that have been presented but not built upon. However, considering that the faults can be attributed more to over-repetition and cumulative decision-making than the actual songwriting involved, fans should have little worry about in the long-run. Due to such prevalent blunders, there is little doubt that Re-Arrange Us is one of the group’s weaker efforts yet, even if the handful of laudable moments should prevent any listener from proclaiming it as a complete waste of time.


If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.