With Mountaintops, Mates Of State continue a love affair with vintage keyboard sounds and pounding percussion, using interlaced vocals and hooky songwriting to create another heartfelt set of effortlessly catchy songs. Apart from the underwhelming covers album Crushes, the duo—married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel—have been on a roll for a while now. A new set of 10 original tracks, Mountaintops continues that with propulsive songs like “Maracas” and delicate ballads like “Desire.” Mates Of State relies on only a few elements—though Mountaintops brings in a few more sounds than usual—but Gardner and Hammel know how to use them extremely well, building a wall of sound out of materials that might sound meager in others’ hands.
It’s seldom less than catchy, and often moving as well. While much has been made of Mates’ couplehood and the role their relationship plays in their songwriting, love is no simple thing in the band’s songs. Tracks like the closers, “Changes” and “Mistakes,” portray marriage as a delicate, continual negotiation between two people, in which love alone might not always be enough to keep trouble at bay. But at least it’s something. “I was feeling left out at my old friend’s house,” begins one song, a list of woes and alienated feelings that eventually gives way to the chorus that gives the song its title, repeated over and over: “At least I have you.” And when the words give out, a bunch of harmonized “la-la-la”s carry the song the rest of the way.