Sunday, March 2, 2008

Album Review: These United States – A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden

It’s been a long time in the making, but the day of reckoning is upon us, ladies and gentlemen. These United States, most certainly one of DC’s finest musical groups, has reached the dawning of a new era. The debut album era. And it pleases me to report that any waiting for said debut has been rewarded by a very nice little record indeed. You see, A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden isn’t just a mouthful, it’s a collection of a dozen rather enjoyable songs in the key of delightful. It is at once grandiose yet stripped bare, incredibly smart, haunting, enveloping, a whisper that screams in your ear.

On this album you will find varying components of rock, pop, folk, country, and perhaps even more than that. Like the good city of DC, A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden is full of a little of everything, to use that oft-uttered cliché, it’s a melting pot. The most common thread is an overall sense of fantastical spacecakery; nearly Suess-ian lyrical cleverness and beautiful, dreamy instrumentation. There are pieces of Hopewell, Andrew Bird, and dashes of Rogue Wave and Mercury Rev here, but those are just jumping off points. One day, I would reckon sooner than later, we writers will use These United States as a reference point for others.

A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden has a lovely, welcoming lo-fi feel to it. Stealth production, kids, take note. My favorite sound is that of the deceptively lo-fi, but perfectly tuned and calculated. Shockingly, I as of yet have not been able to select just one favorite song from the delectable dozen. I do strongly recommend listening extra close to “First Sight,” “Remember Dear,” and “So High So Low So Wide So Long,” as I have formed particular attachments to that particular triumvirate.

My one complaint about the album is that it’s only an eyetooth over half an hour long. Mind you, it doesn’t feel all that short. Perhaps I’m only being greedy, but I could really use another song or two. Should you also feel that way after your first listen, I recommend just listening to the album again. It gets even better the second time (and the third, and the fourth…). It’s a record to give you the warm fuzzies, put a smile on your face, and make your day just that little bit better. Godspeed, These United States, godspeed.

And hey! Here’s something for DC and Richmond kids to rejoice over: These United States will be a) at Iota in Arlington on Monday, March 3, and b) at Gallery 5 in Richmond on Tuesday, March 4. Go and support excellent local music, have a drink, and let your ears get some sweet, sweet lovin’ in the process.

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