Mates of State - Mountain Tops (Barsuk) 

If you thought the Cars could get annoying …

click to enlarge BARSUK
  • Barsuk

People used to get so irritated when a Mates of State song came on — they'd bitch until you shut it off. Their early vocal abrasions laid against towering, cartoonish drum-and-synth combos in service of songs that rendered A.C. Newman's power pop burlesques comparatively lightweight. But when the cute-coy married duo mellowed out and started crooning on Bring It Back and Re-Arrange Us mid-decade, they proved more than a little dangerous, belting out increasingly unshakeable tunes over ever more persuasive Big Beat tracks.

Beginning on their Crushes covers set last year, it seems that Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have taken this too far (though 15 years in, they've earned the right to schmaltz like "Mistakes"). Opener "Palomino" reaches for past glories but feels watered down; the vocal performances have reached a distressing crossroads at which they're either agreeably bland or gruesomely annoying, the cotton-candy way some of the Cars' album tracks were annoying. At best, prom-night bangers like "Total Serendipity" and "Basement Money" may not inspire, but no one will object to them. Truth told, though, the Mates were a finer group when people were demanding their silence.

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