My love affair with Mates of State began back in the Team Boo days of 2003 when I first picked up the disc at WRST. Tracks like “Ha Ha” and “Whiner’s Bio” caught my attention instantly—effortlessly light and delectable, this husband/wife duo’s combo of keys and fun harmonies were love at first listen. Not too long after, I reacquainted myself with their kitschy signature pop beats with 2004’s EP All Day. Who could resist “Goods (All in Your Head)”? In 2006, Bring it Back once again reunited me with my favorite blend of Casio keys, shouting matches and blasted my world full of Like You Crazy’s and even more dancey madness.
Fast forward to 2008. When I first found out Re-Arrange Us was due to hit record store shelves, I didn’t think it would be possible to one-up Kori and Jason’s former efforts. What now? More keys and bap, bap ba’s? How would this not get old? Will it still be as fun? My inner voice thought, yes of course Jodi, it will be everything you want and so much more! Bubble gum, dance party, sleep-over fun zone! And then that first time the CD actually went round in my meager laptop, my expectations not quite sunk, but hit a wall. I was confused. This was Mates of State? Where was that staple eccentricity of keyboard driven pop madness I had initially fallen for? Maybe it was the fact that my speakers weren’t hooked up correctly, maybe I was just having a bad day or maybe I was simply too entranced in watching my cat lick herself clean as I struggled to listen for that first time. Looking back, I don’t think it was any of these factors, I think I was just caught off guard.
After several more listens since that first impression, Re-Arrange Us has slowly, but most surely climbed its way up my rotation. And at first I was just trying to listen. Now, I have to try not to. Mates of State had initially snuck their way in my musical heart for their signature pop claps, harmonies and childlike dance party lullabies. Re-Arrange Us disbanded that former equation and since transcended into a more mature, and slightly slowed down version of more grown-up pop. While tracks like the undeniably fun “Great Dane,” “Help Help” and “Now” still utilized the repetitious upbeat tools of chant-like choruses and intros; the majority of the record may take a couple listens for devotees to catch onto.
Kori traded her Casio keyboards for a piano—a huge difference. Then both she and Jason have disbanded their snotty, snarky shouts into more subtle harmonic cooing and gentle yelps. While the result is still endearingly cute and catchy pop music, it is a much different Mates of State than we once knew and fell in love with. But then again the couple is now a parental unit of not one, but two little girls.
But like the Mates of State family, the tracks from Re-Arrange Us only continue to grow and grow and grow on me. “Get Better” was an obvious choice for the first official single, with its melodic and bitter-sweet chorus, “Everything’s gonna get lighter, even if it never gets better,” submerged in a layer of piano beds and harmonic Kori coos. “My Only Offer” was released as the second single, and may be my favorite track off the entire record, driven again by the powerful piano work, twinkles of xylophone, some trumpet action, light percussion backbeat and husband/wife harmonies.
The record also boasts a handful of more full, epic sounding numbers such as title track, “The Re-Arranger,” the hauntingly serene “Blue and Gold Paint,” and the old school MS reminiscent sounding “You are Free.” Going back to the beginning of my review, I find it hard to believe that only last week I had luke-warm feelings for a release I’m sure will find a way onto my top ten albums of ’08. Overall, Re-Arrange Us has transcended from MS’s earlier roots of quirkiness into a solid, developed pop record with more longevity on the CD wrack versus any of its predecessors. It’s also one hell of a summer record, make sure to bust this one out for the next grill out and Frisbee toss.