MATES OF STATE: Re-Arrange Us [Barsuk]

Is there trouble brewing in pop paradise? It sounds like someone’s been cheating on Mates Of State’s watershed fifth album. A stately Steinway has wedged itself between Kori Gardner and her beloved simple synth loops, and a whole suite of horns and strings is married to Jason Hammel’s steady, bare-bones drumbeats. It’s been an eventful two years for the East Haven, Conn., pair, who had two babies and have made the best album of their career for a second straight time. Building considerably on the subtle expansion of 2006’s Bring It Back, the powerhouse Re-Arrange Us is both natural progression and quantum leap. It’s notable, too, for matching the Mates’ loveliest music to their most doomsayer lyrics. Each hummable track contains an indelible “da-da-da/da-da-da” melody and a disturbing line such as “Everything’s gonna get lighter/Even if it never gets better.” On “My Only Offer” and “The Re-Arranger,” shining round-robin verses and soaring choruses belie relationship death knells. “We’re nearing the end,” confesses Hammel on self-explanatory summit “You Are Free.” For our sake, at least, say it ain’t so. []

—Noah Bonaparte Pais