Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Album Review: These United States - Everything Touches Everything

It’s no secret that Chris and I each have a few bands apiece that we’ve loved fiercely and ferociously for years. To put it bluntly, they’re our pets and we love them. On certain occasions, we’ve been lucky enough to be around these certain bands from virtually the beginning. And when it comes to These United States, well, we go back a ways. I think, and have thought for some time, that they’re one of the best bands around, and not just in the locality sense. There are few bands in the country, let alone in DC and Richmond, who can keep up with them on an artistic level. Not many bands can impress me on a regular basis as much as these boys can. And friends, this third album very well could be that last, biggest push into world domination (and coincidentally, it’s one of the best damn records of 2009). I’d say it’s their finest work so far, but since everything they’ve released is so amazing I really can’t go there.

To refresh your memory, These United States has released three records in their history thus far. Album number one was the ethereal, floating introductory record. Album two was the brilliantly thematic country-fried space folkish one, garnered them quite a lot of attention to boot. But album three, well, it’s probably going to be the one that makes them famous.

The band has expanded from a three-piece to a five-piece, and the added heft of the new and improved lineup favorably adds to the fullness and breadth of the album. Everything Touches Everything is definitely the most accessible These United States record, and darned if it doesn’t sound downright poppy at times. For example, opening (and my favorite) track “I Want You to Keep Everything” is a slick, spotless, nearly perfect pop song, though of course it contains none of the meaningless pop treacle prevalent in bad pop. Jesse Elliott probably couldn’t write a bad song if he tried, bless his heart. Further into the record, the most excellent “Conquest & Consequence” has a robust guitar sound and an almost 60s feel, as though it might have been plucked from right around the dawning of the psychedelic era, and naturally there’s a deeply political slant to the lyrics. Another gem, “Good Bones,” is just warmth and glory blended together. It feels hopeful and triumphant, choc full of vim and vigor. The album closes with the opus “Good Night Wish,” a dreamy track that ebbs and flows along the rhythms of nighttime in the city, bringing things to an end in a most magnificent manner and punctuated by a bang on a guitar at the bittersweet finale.

I don’t believe that all that many people are really, truly gifted at what they do. But that Jesse Elliott, dears, is gifted. I could smell it years ago and he just keeps proving me right, along with the help of some rather special co-stars. His songs can confound and astound and leave you just about breathless and teary/starry/wide-eyed. The band is constantly growing and changing, at once and never quite the same. And most importantly, this band and the music they make has soul. Yet again, here’s another fantastic record, and it doesn’t sound like anything else that anyone else is doing. Each track has its own distinct, unique personality, though they all fit together beautifully and completely, creating a full, cohesive sound that could only be made by These United States. And what a glorious sound it is.

mp3: Good Bones (These United States from Everything Touches Everything)

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