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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

(Music) Mates of State: "Bring It Back"

I've never met a person who is on the line about Mates of State. A person either loves their giddy lo-fi pop music or despises it. That being said, I love Mates of State. Like the aforementioned Dresden Dolls, this duo is comprised of a guy on drums and a chick on piano...well Casio keyboards, organs, and similar instruments that shouldn't be taken as seriously as piano. If Dresden Dolls stands for everything that is sad and painful, the Mates of State is a group that exists to run through open meadows, stop, spin around with arms outstretched, get dizzy, fall down laughing, and lay in the roses while identifying cloud shapes.

Their previous albums have been great, namely 2003's Team Boo which was one of the most enjoyable albums of recent memory. Their new album Bring It Back is more of the same, and a whole lot more.

One listen to the first track and you'll realize the subject matter on Bring It Back is much more serious than their previous outing. Of course, it's still a fun, energetic album. But to call it carefree, one would be mistaken. Indeed, Mates of State's sound is much more grown up on this album. As a result, it's also much more complex, beautiful, and interesting. On any other MoS album a song named "Like U Crazy" would be a fast teenage-esque puppy love song, but on Bring It Back it becomes a beautiful duet and a flawless ballad with haunting pianos and lovely harmonies. The song 'Beautiful Dreamer" also tackles a more serious subject matter as the couple proclaims "There was a time we lived in truth, let's bring it back." Yet the song is still fun, still danceable. And this is the case for most of the album. Mates of State has managed to grow up, yet maintain what made them so enjoyable in the first place.

Whether it's the death march sound of "What It Means," the beautiful melody of "Nature and the Wreck" or the guitar-driven dance songs "Fraud in the 80's" and "For the Actor" there is something for everyone on this album. Honestly, there is not a song on this album that I dislike. For the first time, Mates of State has crafted a flawless album that you'll be listening to for months.

This is the first great album of 2006. The second great album is released on April 4.

Recommended for Mates of State fans and anyone else looking to smile and/or dance.

Key Tracks:
  1. "Fraud in the 80's"
  2. "What it Means"
  3. "Nature and the Wreck"
  4. "Running Out

4 out of 5 Stars

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(Music) The Dresden Dolls: "Yes Virginia"

This is a good place to start. Let's talk for a little while about the Dresden Dolls. If you've been around me at all in the last year or so, you've probably at least heard of them. A dude on drums and a chick on piano, each with their own share of mental issues, make up this dynamic duo. Thier live show is supposed to be amazing, unfortunately NIN presales are categorically a Lebanese butt-sex torture chamber, so I missed out on that. Also, big ups to Josh and Adams for introducing me to them, "Girl Anachronism" is just too good to forget, as is most of their debut self-titled album (2003). But that's not what this post is about. This post is about their new album, "Yes Virginia."

"Yes Virginia" is the all-too-common, sophomore slump album. If you're like me, you kinda wore out the first album way too quick. To this day, I really can't put the album in and listen to more than the first two songs without getting bored. Perhaps this is why I'm not a fan of YV. For the most part, it's the same album with different lyrics. It is no huge departure for the Dresden Dolls.

What's worst, however, is that the group seems to have trouble recapturing the passion and pain of the first album. In my opinion, that's what made the first album classic, true grit and passion. Not so on this album. Of course, they do try their best. The opening track "Sex Changes" seems like an obvious attempt to recreate the chaotic nature of "Girl Anachronism," but obviously, the subject matter is a little harder to swallow, which is the case with most of the album. Maybe I'm a sick guy, but I'd rather hear about Amanda cutting herself than hear about her masturbating and achieving orgasm ("First Orgasm"). The rest of the album is the predictable barrage of songs about ex-lovers and "Backstabbers." And while each song has something to admire, the album as a whole is little more than a quivering insect in the shadow of their self-titled debut's size 13's. Perhaps the Dresden Dolls have always been what I've secretly suspected: a gimmick.

This album is recommended to anyone who still loves their debut and listens to it frequently.

Key Tracks:

  1. "Sex Changes"
  2. "My Alcoholic Friends"
  3. "Necessary Evil"
2 out of 5 stars

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