Alt-country/jam is littered with middling acts with inexplicable popularity: your Dr. Dogs (QRO live review), your Deer Ticks (QRO photos) – which is why it’s so great when you stumble upon a lesser-known act that’s not only doing the sound well, but better & better, like Lexington/D.C. outfit These United States (who’ve actually opened on a bill with both Dr. Dog & Deer Tick – QRO photos). One of the more prolific bands out there, they’ve grown from the stripped singer/songwriter of debut A Picture of the Three of Us At the Gate To the Garden of Eden in 2008, putting out two records last year, the strong, up-tempo Crimes (QRO review) and the even stronger Everything Touches Everything (QRO review), with their live show (QRO live review) improving as well. Unfortunately, this growth trend couldn’t last, and the heightened expectations dash the band’s latest, What Lasts, a good record that isn’t the great one you were kind of expecting at this point.
T.U.S.’s improvement was mostly tied to their embrace of an upswing party to their indie-country/jam in pieces like Crimes‘s "Honor Amongst Thieves" & Everything‘s "I Want You To Keep Everything", but What Lasts wanes up that trend. Yet what does it replace it with? The sweet sway of pieces like opener "Nobody Can Tell" or "Life&Death She&I" (which features vocals from burgeoning alt-country star Dawn Landes – QRO spotlight on), or the loss-sway of "Just This" or the title track are nice, but that’s all they really are – nice, and fail to stand out. Meanwhile, the indie-jam stomp "One You Believe", toe-tapping "The Great Rivers", or up-tick road-speed party closer "Water & Wheat" are all good, but These United States has done better.
There’s very little that’s bad about What Lasts (the slow & sweet "What Do You Want With My Heart" is a bit boring), and it would be impressive in the hands of many of the often-middling acts in the indie-country/jam arena. But These United States have raised expectations to the point where a good record like this somehow doesn’t feel like enough.
MP3 Stream: "Water and Wheat"