Bring It Back is Mates of State's fourth album and their first for new label Barsuk. Usually by the time of a band's fourth album they start to sound like the last half of their new label's name. That's not the case here, not by a long shot. The duo of Kori Gardner (various keyboards/vocals) and Jason Hammel (drums/vocals) have actually improved, and the album sports stronger songs, a fuller sound, more emotional weight, and an exuberant soul that spills out of the speakers like milk and cake at a kid's birthday party. It's hard to pinpoint what makes this record more satisfying than the rest of their excellent back catalog. Perhaps it is the reliance on more piano than usual, maybe the richer vocals of Gardner, maybe the punchy and powerful production from Bill Racine, or that the band has added some guitar and bass to their sound. It's a combination of all that, but most of all it's the number of memorable songs, which count among some of the best of their career. There are songs with surging vocal harmonies ("Beautiful Dreamer," "So Many Ways"), songs with choruses that inspire you to add your own heartfelt vocal contributions ("Fraud in the 80s," "For the Actor"), songs with spine-tingling dynamic shifts ("What It Means," "Think Long"), songs that make a fuzzed-out organ seem like the coolest possible instrument, ("Punchlines"). A song like "Running Out" (a monumental epic that starts as a simple ballad and builds to a heart-wrenching climax complete with a vocal choir) shows how assured and interesting the band has become. Mates of State started off their career as a kind of curiosity (no guitars!) but have grown into the kind of group where you can't wait to see what they will do next, even if it is only to release records like Bring It Back that strengthen and perfect their formula.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra