Tag Archives: mates of state

My 2011 in Music: #20-11

You probably thought that Honorable Mentions post was my 11-20, right? Wrong! I couldn’t squeeze everything into a top ten or fifteen this year, so I did a top twenty, split into two parts. My top ten will post tomorrow, though between you and me, you could hop over to Row Three and see it now.

20. The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade

The first album from local sibling act The Belle Brigade was a self-produced collection of solid and sweet folksy songs. This time around, they have a label, a bunch of promotion (I’ve even seen them featuring on some big-name year-end lists!), and a bigger, bolder, more rollicking sound. Los Angeles musicians have their own take on country, sort of an indie-country hybrid, and I like it.

19. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

Every time I hear The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I really enjoy them (also lead singer Kip is like the nicest guy ever). They don’t stick with me for that long, though, which is the main reason this album isn’t even higher on my list. This one’s even catchier and more fun than their previous stuff, if possible, and the video for “Body” is a great tribute to the endless summers of childhood.

18. The Dodos – No Color

I quite liked The Dodo’s first album Visiter, but didn’t care for the second at all – with No Color, they’re back in form, with intricate arrangements and exuberant drumming backing up soaring vocals. Plus, this time they’ve got Neko Case on background vocals, which lends an extra air of awesome to many of the songs, especially “Don’t Try and Hide It.”

17. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness

The most surprising thing about this album is that Los Campesinos! haven’t used this title before. Yes, you won’t find much new on here if you’re a long-time Los Camp! fan, but if you are a fan, you’re probably okay with that. It continues the slightly slower, gloomier tone that characterized the second half of Romance is Boring, with lyrics that are slightly more mature and considered. Losing more original members is starting to take its toll, though – nothing against the replacements, who are solid, but Aleks’s sunny counterpoint to Gareth’s desperation is missed.

16. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

A band combining former members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, the Minders, and others, I knew I had to check Wild Flag out as soon as I heard about them. I don’t love all of the songs (some tend toward the same noisiness that makes Sleater-Kinney just a sometimes band for me), but the ones I do like I like a LOT. Especially “Romance,” which also has a really fun video – basically a short film, really. Carrie Brownstein is also active as a comedienne (currently on IFC’s Portlandia with Fred Armison), and that sense comes through here.

15. Ida Maria – KATLA

Somehow I missed until a few weeks ago that Ida Maria had a new album out this year! Thankfully I got hold of it in time for this list, because this is one fun punk throwback album. There’s a few songs that tend a bit too abrasive for me, but for the most part, KATLA is immediately and unavoidably catchy. Throw in Ida Maria’s sly wit, and this is at least as fun, maybe more so, than her debut. “Cherry Red” is one of my favorite songs on the album; this version is acoustic, but the album is not.

14. Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials

I didn’t give Florence + the Machine’s debut album Lungs nearly enough listening time when it came out, beyond the two or three singles that got a lot of play, but I tuned into this one more. I’m still not totally sold on the whole package – her voice is amazing, there’s no doubt of that, but it often overpowers everything else that’s going on. I think that’s part of the point. But there’s a lot to appreciate here, and there are several songs definitely standing out to me on here.

13. Mates of State – Mountaintops

It’s so great to hear Mates of State back doing original music again after an admittedly-great cover album. I need more time with this one; the second half starts to get a bit same-y to me, and they’re definitely moving into a more melodic and pared-down style that I like, but doesn’t excite me as much as Bring It Back, which remains my favorite of their albums. That said, songs like “Palomino” and “Maracas” are right up with their best.

12. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

A friend has proven to me he shared UK band Veronica Falls with me last year, which I don’t remember at all, but after stumbling across them on Stereogum earlier this year, I find myself more taken with Veronica Falls’ eponymous debut LP every time I hear it. The combination of gentle vocals with melancholic chord progressions, tight harmonies, and just a hint of medieval intervals feels fresh and unique, and imminently pleasing.

11. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams / He Gets Me High EP

The EP He Gets Me High was my #1 of the first half of the year. I still love it, and I quite like Only in Dreams as well, but it’s a lot less noise-poppy and a lot more polished than their previous album, which is throwing me off. With more time to get used to Only in Dreams, I’ve little doubt this pair of excellent discs would jump back into my Top Ten, but as of right now, I’m not getting the same exhilaration from Only in Dreams that I got from the EP or their previous album, so I’m reluctantly bumping them down here.

On Row Three: Contagion, Wilder, Maddin, and Music

The past couple of weeks have seen some nicely varied activity on Row Three. The series posts seem to be going well, and generating the hoped-for interaction, so we’ll try to keep that up. As far as regular reviews, I got one up for Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, and only a week or so after it was released! That’s a major triumph for me…I need time to mull things over. I’ll never make it as a weekly trade reviewer. Good thing I don’t really want to be that. In any case, I liked the movie a good bit, and I’ve already talked about it in my September Scorecard, so I’ll just leave you to read that and/or the full review at Row Three.

I’ve been idly figuring out which directors I’ve seen the most films by, and Billy Wilder came out fairly close to the top, with fourteen. Not surprising; he’s a fantastic writer/director and I went through a period as a teenager just gobbling up everything of his I could find. In fact, I’d say he’s probably one of the first directors I actively knew by name and sought out their films. So I decided to do a Rank ‘Em entry and see how his filmography stacks up. I threw in films he wrote but didn’t direct, too, for good measure, bringing the total up to eighteen. It was challenging near the top simply because his top four or five films are all top-notch and difficult to choose between, but I’m fairly content with my placement. Meanwhile, Marina ranked Guy Maddin films, Domenic ranked Steven Soderbegh films, and Ross ranked Brad Pitt films. We like lists, yes we do.

Along with our ongoing post series, we’re also going to try to participate a little more in blogathons and other events across the blogging community, and what better way to get our feet wet than with a few posts about Canadian maverick Guy Maddin, a favorite among many Row Three contributors, for a blogathon hosted at the Keyframe blog over at Fandor (a streaming video site you should really check out if you like non-mainstream film). Kurt talked about his favorite Maddin film Careful, Colleen posted a 3×5 review of Tales of Gimli Hospital, Marina ranked her top five Maddin films, and I wrote a bit about my early experiences with Maddin, since I’ve only just started looking at his filmography this year.

For my latest MorePop entry, I threw together a list of some music I’ve been checking out in September – there have been a LOT of indie releases this month, including some I haven’t even had a chance to get to yet! So this is just a sampling of what’s been filling up my Spotify, along with videos and streams of songs for each one. Including the new Mates of State album Mountaintops, which is earworming me right now. This week, Marina says goodbye to R.E.M. and gives us her top ten R.E.M. songs.

New Mates of State (free MP3)!

A new Mates of State album is always reason to rejoice in my book, and this is their first original one since 2008’s Rearrange Us. Don’t get me wrong, I loved their covers album (#9 on my list last year), but it’s great to hear new stuff from them as well. Mountaintops dropped on Tuesday, and I’m still acclimating to the whole thing, but the first couple of songs are instant winners. They’re getting a bit more melodic, a bit more generous with their sound, but it’s still very much them.

Even better, as a special for TODAY ONLY (September 16th), Amazon.com has the first track on the album, entitled “Palomino”, as a free download. Absolutely free. It’s a great song that hooked me on the album immediately. So if you’re new to Mates of State, go snag that before the free part goes away. If you’re not new to them, why haven’t you bought the album already?!

And then come back and watch the video for the second track, which was released a few months ago.

New Mates of State Video!

Although I loved Mates of State’s cover album Crushes, it’s really great to hear them doing more original stuff, and so soon! Their next album will be called Mountaintops, and will drop on September 13th from Barsuk. They’ve also got a tour lining up for September/October (with a couple of earlier one-off dates), though not out my direction yet. If you’re in the east, midwest, or south, though, definitely look them up when they come through your town. They put on a great live show.

To tide us over, they’ve released a performance-based music video for “Maracas” off the new album. It’s very poppy and synthy, as they are wont to be, but sounds like they’re continuing some of the trajectory of Crushes, allowing the vocals to be a little sweeter and mellower, showcasing Kori’s lovely voice.

Tour Dates
7/9 – Rochester, Minn. @ St. John’s Block Party
8/5 – Southampton, N.Y. @ Escape to New York
9/21 – Washington, D.C. @ 930 Club ^ /
9/22 – Cincinnati, Ohio @ Mid Point Music Festival
9/23 – Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Mr. Smalls ^ /
9/24 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Popped Festival ^ /
9/26 – Boston, Mass. @ Royale ^ /
9/27 – Montreal, Quebec @ Il Motore ^ /
9/28 – Toronto, Ontario @ Phoenix ^ /
9/29 – Detroit, Mich. @ St. Andrews ^ /
9/30 – Chicago, Ill. @ Metro ^ /
10/1 – Columbus, Ohio @ Newport Music Hall % /
10/3 – Asheville, N.C. @ The Orange Peel % /
10/4 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Exit/In % /
10/5 – Charlotte, N.C. @ Visulite Theatre % /
10/6 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Drunken Unicorn % /
10/7 – Orlando, Fla. @ The Social % /
10/8 – Sunrise, Fla. @ Langerado Festival % /
10/10 – Richmond, Va. @ Canal Club % /
10/11 – Baltimore, Md. @ Ottobar % /
10/12 – New York, N.Y. @ Webster Hall %
10/28 – New Orleans, La. @ Voodoo Experience

^ with Suckers
/ with Yawn
% with Other Lives

hat tip Paste

2010 in Music: #9 Mates of State – Crushes

Mates-of-State-banner.jpg

[#8-12 on this countdown are basically tied. I’ve put them in order of release date.]

Yes, there’s a covers album on my Best Of list. No, I wouldn’t have expected that either. In fact, I was fairly disappointed when I heard that Mates of State was going to be doing a covers album – I love their original stuff so much that the idea of losing out on an opportunity to get more of that while they put effort into a covers CD made me a little sad.

But. BUT. This album is awesome. It’s like a master course in how to do covers. They take some great songs, from a wide variety of artists (established indie bands like Death Cab for Cutie, lesser-known up-and-comers like Girls, classics like Tom Waits, etc.) and truly make them their own. They maintain the integrity of the original while making them sound as if Mates of State had originated them. It’s quite a feat, and they do it perfectly on every song on here.

In fact, they even do some BETTER than the originals, I’d say – the first single to be released was “Laura,” originally by Girls. I was very not excited by this, because I saw Girls open for Los Campesinos! last year and was the opposite of impressed: I didn’t like them at all. But Mates of State’s version of the song turned out to be one of my favorites on the whole album. Others, like Belle and Sebastian’s “Sleep the Clock Around,” they play pretty close to the original, but it still fits their sound well.

Basically, I dare anyone to listen to this album without a giant smile on their face. It proves that you don’t necessarily have to write the songs originally to have a fresh and original version of it to call your own.