Variety in an album like A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden by These United States is becoming an endangered art form. These United States brilliantly combine the odd with the beautiful. Mixing tectonics with melodic keyboards, accordions and random percussion instruments, along with twang in the vocals, make this album a folk delight.
The duo that makes up These United States, David Strackany and Jesse Elliott, mix it up, all of it up, with some of the most innovative mixers in the business today. The sound is reminiscent of Bright Eyes’ most folk and country-inspired albums, such as I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and rivals such albums in risk. Taking chances, sometimes venturing into the `weird’ category with instrumentals and narrative lyrics is rewarding for These United States in performance and effortless delivery of song after song.
Introductory track “Preface: Painless” sets the stage and swoons with intelligent lyrics and gentle sound. Picking up the pace in the next couple of songs with cheerful ambivalence, the variety of the album becomes obvious. These United States bring the listener into their universe of alley cats and bohemians that would be a fitting addition to any of Wes Anderson’s movie soundtracks.
The catchiest tune on the album is easily “First Sight.” The intro is intriguing with its excitement and preemptive optimism. Once the lyrics begin, These United States show off their talent with words. The combination of percussion and the persistence of the familiar opening melody cultivate a synergy that will have you replaying the song again and again, without requiring a long period of time to reach `favorite status.’ Without falling into a trap of cliché or predictability, the band creatively makes the simple intriguing, like in track four, “The Business.”
These United States’ potential to be a big deal is extremely apparent in listening to A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden. It’s apparent because of the lustrous diversity in the content, keeping the listener interested in track after track. The band has the ability to win over any music lover because of the wide variety of appealing and innovative story telling that is presented in this album.
M. Ward – End of Amnesia
Andrew Bird – Weather Systems
Sea Wolf – Leaves In the River