Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Mates of State: Mountaintops [Barsuk, 2011]
Kory Gardner and Jason Hammel are strong singers with a weakness for melody who play keyboards and drums, such indie lifers that they went and had two kids on the theory they could just tour with them--check Gardner's Band on the Diaper Run blog. Never scrawny like punk (they rolled new wave) or twee like synth-pop (organ is Gardner's meat), they developed surprising muscle tone for a duo without breaking on through. But their seventh album opens with a simulated big-pop anthem and maintains that size and momentum without compromising their ability to play the new songs live. The discord that surfaces in the last few lyrics may indicate bumps in their marital road. But it definitely indicates how hard it is to write 10 near-corny pop songs without a hint of unhappy love. And the wholeness of the music leaves us feeling they're more than OK. A-