Mates of State – Mountaintops

The following is a review of the Mates of State album, Mountaintops. It originally appeared on AltOhio. A copy of the original article can be found here. 


Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have always had two things in common: their love of music and their love for each other.

After 10 years of marriage and two children, Mates of State return with their 7th studio album, Mountaintops. Released shortly after the release of their cover album, Crushes, Mountaintops seems to be a fitting farewell for the end of summer.

I had first heard of Mates of State via an NPR special. It was the winter of 2006. They were playing to a live audience in between an Ira Glass’ oration. I was completely blown away! It was just drums, keyboards and vocals. The songs were pop songs and the best part about them? They sounded sincerely happy.

The difference between a Mates of State ‘pop song’ and any other pop song is very subtle. Every other pop song has a tendency to sound like it was cut out of plastic. The result is a one sided song that sounds emotional without having any emotion in it. A Mates of State pop song sounds like it was birthed from someone else. It sounds alive and it seems happy that it is.

Since my initial discovery, they have consistently given us the same effort. While there is something to be said for sticking with a formula that works, quite frankly, I’m a little disappointed. There hasn’t been any noticeable musical growth in the 5 years that I have known about their existence.

The album’s opener, Palomino showed promise but every track after that simply struck me as a reiteration of their previous work: more happy pop songs.

You would think that celebrating a 10th wedding anniversary combined with the adjustment necessary to be a parent to a life that you have brought into the world would have issued some sort of creative change in either Ms. Gardner or Mr. Hammel. Sadly, this is not the case. While I must say that, by Mates of State standards, this is a good album, I must also say that it’s just as good as any of their previous work.


The following was a review of the Mates of State album, Mountaintops. It originally appeared on AltOhio. I also agree that it’s weird to have a a ‘so-so’ review posted on your personal web site, but it’s my site and I can do what I want. A copy of the original article can be found here.

 

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Live at the Grog Shop

The following is a review of the first time that I have seen Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls perform. It was also the last time that I have seen live music. Which is a weird revelation to have. The original story can be found here. 


On Wednesday, September 12th, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls played the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights with supporting acts Larry and his Flask & Jenny Owen Youngs.

Prior to this show, I didn’t know what to expect. The buzz around Frank Turner has been growing over the past couple of years. From what I’d previously heard of his work, it was good, but none of it really left a lasting impression on me.

Opening the show was Jenny Owen Youngs. I can’t imagine that being the opening act on a three-band bill is ever any fun. In its most base form, you are only there to warm up the crowd for the acts that are following you. Singing songs about love, sex and T-Rex (the dinosaur, not the band), Jenny Owen Youngs was a pleasant surprise. She reminded me of a young, biker version of Ani DiFranco.

Following Jenny was Larry and his Flask. I can honestly say that everyone at this show was unprepared for this group. Six well-dressed and hairy men took to the stage and proceeded to whip the crowd into a frothing frenzy. If I had to encapsulate their sound or what they sang about, I would have to say that they sounded like rockabilly on methamphetamines. Early in Larry and his Flask’s set, an electrical problem shorted the stage lights out completely.

It’s a shitty thing to happen to anyone in any performing art and I would hardly think that anyone would blame them if they stopped playing. But Larry and his Flask didn’t stop – they didn’t even miss a beat!

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls took to the stage shortly after 10pm. While rather tame in comparison to Larry and His Flask, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Soul were still quite a sight to behold. People were singing along, clapping and enjoying themselves to their highest limits.

Midway through their set, the Sleeping Souls took a break and Mr. Turner played a few songs on his own – one of which involved Gene Simmons.

It’s fairly common knowledge that Mr. Simmons brags about having slept with around 4,800 women and taking a Polaroid of each one, for a collection he keeps in an album under his bed. Sad? Yes. Disgusting? Yes.

All of these are things that Mr. Turner in fact, did bring up. Then he played “Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons?”

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick! I was blown away! Frank Turner had managed to take a horrible man, a troll like Gene Simmons and (through song) made him human again. Frank accomplished what no therapist, let alone wizard, could ever do.

This was easily the best show that I have been to within the past 10 years. Jenny Owen Youngs, Larry and His Flask, and Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls are acts that you do not want to miss the next time that they roll through town.


This was a review of the first time that I have seen Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls perform. It was also the last time that I have seen live music. Which is a weird revelation to have. The original story can be found here.