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Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel aren't the first married couple to write songs about the challenges and celebrations inherent to lifelong love, but few focus more intently on a sense of play. Still, there's nothing naive or unrealistic about their songs: When they sing, "Love loud / Don't lose loud" in 2008's "The Re-Arranger," they're taking care to package a sweet little two-word slogan with a subtle but potent reminder that loving loudly is a job of endless maintenance.
"Staring Contest" opens a new five-song Mates Of State EP with a June 16 release date and the characteristically optimistic title You're Going To Make It. Casting the heady swoon of courtship as a game of intense focus ("It's all about you / I'm wild about you"), "Staring Contest" practically bursts with the giddy excitement of new love. But, taken in the context of Mates Of State's long history — nearly two decades as a couple, complete with two children and seven full-length albums together — newness is a state of mind rather than a reality. Like loudness, it never needs to fade.