Review: These United States – What Lasts

These United States are a band that has held my attention since their debut in 2008. In the two years that they have been together, they have released four albums on a consistent basis, and their style has evolved from Blitzen Trapper inspired pop folk, to the alternative country sound that has been their fixture since 2009’s Everything Touches Everything. Their fourth album retains the sound of their previous album, but lyrically, deals with heavier themes of loss, depression, and death. What Lasts is, so far, their darkest album to date, inspired by the near drowning of lead singer Jesse Elliott. Water, death, and drowning are mentioned or alluded to throughout the album, and it does have a haunting effect. Elliott’s lyrics are his most confessional. Album opener “Nobody Can Tell” feels like Elliott is telling the listener what happened that day on Lake Michigan, his strained voice detailing how he fought to survive. Though there is a strong sense of melancholy on the album, Elliott and the band still know enough to add some upbeat numbers such as the bouncy, sixties-pop inspired “Life & Death, She & I,” to give the listener a rest from the serious themes. And the album closer “Water & Wheat,” hints at optimism. They entered the darkness, but are moving away from it, and the wind is at their back. (United Interests, Charles Lefebvre