For all its breezy boppiness and off-and-on funkiness, “Maracas” is one sturdy and involved piece of more-than-synth pop. Despite significant changes along the way in feel, structure, rhythm, melody, arrangement, and even vocals, the song pretty much flits by. You don’t have to notice much if you don’t want to; I saw a recent blog post elsewhere that called the song “dancey,” which, okay, great, I guess it kind of is. But also kind of isn’t. There’s not just one thing going on here; sections more or less bump into each other (for one example, how exactly does the intro introduce this song?), melodies don’t necessarily relate from one part to another, and in the end a whole is somehow created out of nothing you can quite put your finger on.
Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, together musically now for 14 years, and married since 2001, perform with such great offhand command that “Maracas” doesn’t sound written as much as discovered. Moments with an off-the-cuff feel become near hooks—such as Gardner’s vocal leap on the words “I’m taking you back” (0:59)—and the overall song acquires an elusive sort of momentum as we shift from funk to dance-rock, a move signaled by a synth break bordering on the goofy (2:00). The synth parts here are all a bit goofy, come to think of it, and this turns out to be a fine thing—I like when a band takes advantage of the synthesizer’s inherently (let’s be honest) silly sound.
“Maracas” is a track from Mates of State’s forthcoming album, Mountaintops, due in September on Barsuk Records. This will be the duo’s seventh full-length album, including 2010′s all-covers album, Crushes. MP3 via Barsuk. The couple lives in Connecticut with their two daughters. Gardner also writes on parenting issues in a blog called Band on the Diaper Run. Mates of State were previously featured on Fingertips in 2006.