Four years for an indie band is a decade for a mainstream band. Unfair? Sure. But the reality is a band that has an established widespread fan base can get away with collecting themselves for years and years, exploring mysterious rooms in their beachfront secondary homes. But in this hyper-sensitive and impatient society, four years is enough to kill any momentum for a smaller band.
Mates of Mine broke onto the indie scene with the album, ‘North Nowhere’ in 2008. It was sentimental without being cheesy, and helped place the band in the consciousness of the indie music realm.
Now a whole four years later, we have ‘Possibilities.’ The album touches on many tropes of the singer-songwriter folksy pop sound; ambition, love, confusion- and a little more on love.
The group is from Sweden, and the members carry thick accents, but you wouldn’t think it considering the direct Americana influence of the 12 tracks on ‘Possibilities.’
The group includes Steve Earle, Steven Conn, and R.S. Field, a musical trio and unit that seems bent on harnessing an honesty lacking from the fabricated bore-fests that grace the radio. I’m not familiar with Swedish radio and the scene there, but I can’t expect it to be much better than here, unless there is something special in the water. Still, if anything makes me want to explore the origins of Swedish music, it is Mates of Mine.
The album opens with ‘Dreamer’, an ode to what the world can offer if you glue those rosy red glasses on your eyes without any shame. On the other hand, ‘A Long Walk Home’ takes slow, brooding steps, and keeps the energy calm and entrancing with thinly delicate guitars and keyboards.
‘Shadows’ bobs and weaves throughout its run with some intricate drumming and a lead guitar melody that shines in the chorus and gives the song its remarkable charm.
The greatest balance achieved on ‘Possibilities’ is their inherent ability to be sincere without being patronizing. This counter-culture finds people slanting towards the absurd, and focusing on being twisted or “original” as opposed to accepting a more sentimental tune. And many find sentimentality derailing and too silly or played out to be managed well. Mates of Mine aren’t pretending the world is perfect, but it seems that they see the beauty. ‘Hurricane‘ rests towards the end of the album, and is a testament to this likely belief. ‘In the Sun’ charms with a borderline naivety but regard for the passing of time. “Don’t hold back, listen to your memories, be the best you can be” sort of thing. It’s all saccharine but honest, a balance almost impossible to achieve.
Close friend of the group, Horace, testifies in favor of the band. “They don’t really have any rules about how they do things, as far as being reverent about a certain style of music.” Horace isn’t a particularly unbiased source, having been acquainted with the band for quite some time through a mutual friend. But there is an absolute immediacy and honesty to his words and to the music.They really do try to not pigeonhole into a stylistic set of principles, while also paying slight homage to groups of the past. But it is more than just the style of music, and their ability to weave in and out of their influences with the mastery of an accomplished decade-spanning group. It is in their ability to take the cheese out of cheesy and to make the lyrical archetypes gorgeously un-contrived.
Mates of Mine are playing the sincerity card for their second album. The songs breathe without ever feeling unrelenting or hockey. They find a comfort zone between organically self-aware and sentimentality.
Possibilities is Mates of Mine latest album. It was produced by the well know R.S. Field & recorded in Nashville, TN in 2011. Check out this trailer, from the 1 hour documentary about the band and the making of the album. It is included on the deluxe version of the new album and available on their site.
About Ryan Merkel
Ryan Merkel is a writer on music, pop culture, entertainment, business, and all those other fun things which make life tick. He is an entrepreneur, designer, and overall pop culture enthusiast. Ryan owns the clothing line LoveMended with his wife, which focuses on fashion and charity, as well as the music blog CultureTease. Ryan is the author of two novels, and currently lives in Florida.