Beta State | #Friendship (Deluxe Edition) (s/r)

friendship sqIt’s one heck of a showcase for the core melodies of these songs, and the flexibility of Matt McDonald’s vocal performances.


I was introduced to Beta State a few years ago while trying to track down the band Strata. Beta State features two members of that band (Ryan Hernandez, guitars, and Adrian Robison, drums), and every bit of its skyscraper-high ambition. Matt McDonald and Justin Kastner on vocals and bass, respectively, fill out the four-piece and contribute to the power and passion that makes Beta State the arena-worthy anthem authors they are.

#Friendship appeared initially as an EP at the end of 2011, with six tracks showcasing that Beta State had progressed from the more pensive Stars, their debut LP—which they actually offered as a free download from their website in exchange for a valid email address. The growth of the band was evident, as every band member seemed to be in full stride on each song, urgent and epic every step of the way.

The new Deluxe Edition marks the inclusion of an additional four songs that take flight in step with the others, as well as an excellent cover of Björk’s “Unravel” and remixes of several of the songs which have no business being as fun and as good as they are. They completely recast the songs as electronic pop, crunk-ified snap music, four-on-the-floor hard house with a touch of trance that morphs into dub-stepped Daft Punk—for starters. It’s an unexpected turn that might lose more genre-centric, close-minded fans, but for fans of music in general, with wide ranging tastes, it’s one heck of a showcase for the core melodies of these songs, and the flexibility of Matt McDonald’s vocal performances.

Rather than ignore the flexibility of his talents, or try and shoehorn trends into their music on the album proper, they go for the throat with these remixes that cast McDonald is the breakout star he could be if he chose another genre to ply his talents. It also gives fans self-conscious about buying that Skrillex download or David Guetta CD a chance to indulge their raver side in the safe confines of their chosen indie band’s experimental remix project. I supposed a more flattering comparison would be to latter day Depeche Mode, who have done a great job of adding modern embellishments to their already post-modern take on pop music.

As a whole, the entire album is a musical confection of the highest quality, two kinds of uplift some might consider diametrically opposed, but the common thread of McDonald near adolescent tenor, the ever ascending crescendos, and interstellar amounts of delay and other effects bridge the divide sonically. Has all the energy and youthfulness music can provide. A | Willie Edward Smith

RIYL: Yellow Card, 30 Seconds to Mars, Anberlin, Angels & Airwaves, U2, MAE

Standout tracks: Weightless, Start A Clean Slate, Unravel, Stronger than Gravity (+ Remixes)

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