Nick and Jessica. Eminem and Kim. Brad and Jennifer. Jeepers, isn't there one celebrity couple around that can stay together for the long haul? Oh, right, there's San Francisco lovebirds Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, aka Mates of State. They're bigwigs in the indie-rock universe who have been together for nearly a decade (and married since 2001), making sweet pop music such as that on their fourth album, Bring It Back. Anyone who's heard the disc's sunshiny antecedents knows this duo really digs each other -- and on these ten tracks, the Mates are as playful and buoyant as ever. Cheery vocal harmonies, the occasional "woo-hoo!" and "hey! hey!", drumming crisp as early morning air and twinkling keyboard melodies carry the action here. And just as they expanded their family last year with the birth of daughter Magnolia, Gardner and Hammel built on their usual organ-drums-vox-only setup with guitar, bass, trumpet and strings, perhaps most winningly on the irresistibly upbeat "For the Actor." Once again, no cracks can be heard in Mates of State's blissful union, and unlike most public displays of affection, theirs are entirely welcome.
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