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Mates of State make March magical … or at least tolerable

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Mates of State offer chipper indie pop that’ll cure your March doldrums. Photo via Barsuk Records.

As of writing this article, there is snow on the ground, and even more is forecasted. The high temperature for the next five days isn’t expected to get above 40 degrees. Times like these I wonder why our ancestors even bothered settling in Wisconsin.

Yes, March is a rough month. The only two redeeming factors that save it from complete awfulness are Spring Break and March Madness. The rest of the month is a dead zone of mediocre movies, ugly weather and midterms.

So, almost every March, I am all frowns. This year, though, I have found something that manages to keep my spirits up: the pleasant music duo Mates of State and their chipper album, “Re-Arrange Us.”

The little-known pop group, comprised of married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, emerged on the music scene in 2000. However, they only began to reach wider audiences around 2008 with the release of “Re-Arrange Us,” their fifth album.

Much of this newfound popularity was thanks in part to appearances on the soundtracks of popular television shows, such as “90210” and “Gossip Girl.” They also went on tour with Yo Gabba Gabba in 2010, which is easily the coolest television show that is directed at audiences under the age of 10. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I can promise it’s not; the show is amazing.

But the main reason to love Mates of State is, of course, the music. Though “Re-Arrange Us” is a magical record all-around, two songs in particular, “Get Better” and “The Re-Arranger” are getting me through the early spring blues.

The two songs are different in many ways. For instance, while Gardner and Hammel sing on both tracks, “The Re-Arranger” features both vocalists, while “Get Better” puts the emphasis on Gardner’s light and beautiful voice. In addition, “Get Better” has a much more thumping and methodical beat, whereas “The Re-Arranger” is almost impossible not to skip around to.

Luckily, I have been able to contain those urges in public so people don’t think I’ve taken a page out of Gary Busey’s book.

It’s really the things the two songs have in common that make them great though. Both feature beautiful harmonies between the two married vocalists, and even when they’re not harmonizing, as in the verses of “The Re-Arranger”, their voices play off each other like a game of badminton, melodies lightly bouncing back and forth.

Nerdy metaphors aside, the thing that makes Mates of State perfect for March is the feeling of triumph in their sound. When I walk out the door in the morning, heading off to an 8 a.m. exam, putting “The Re-Arranger” or “Get Better” on my iPod is an instant way to get myself psyched. The two songs feature beats, lyrics and notes that get you ready for the day, despite the weather.

March may be horrible, but thanks to Mates of State, your mood doesn’t have to be.

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