Swimming in Lake Michigan, These United States' lead singer Jesse Elliott almost drowned, before dragging himself out of the great lake. Now, he's used the near-death experience as the backbone of the band's new album, ominously titled, What Lasts. His traumatic experience is evident right from What Lasts' watery packaging: The front illustration shows a horizon over a lake, and inside are sketches of the band in the same blue colors, looking a bit like grungy mermaids.
What Lasts shows a darker side of These United States, usually a more poppy and energetic band. Most songs reflect Elliott's troubling experience in the lake, or at least reference death or large bodies of water; in "Nobody Can Tell," for example, Elliott sings, "I sunk, and I swam, and I laughed, and I swam. I still swim."
Musically, These United States take a moody turn -- more toward Connor Oberst's style -- on tracks like "Dug Him in the Dirt." At other times, Elliott's coarse voice sounds more like a modern Neil Young or even a bit like Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock (but with less screaming). With vocals backed by acoustic guitars, What Lasts is a mellow, yet dynamic album that seems like a natural transition from the faster pace of previous albums, like Everything Touches Everything.
This Friday, These United States will bring their watery woes to Schenley Plaza as part of a free outdoor concert series sponsored by WYEP 91.3 FM.
These United States at WYEP Final Fridays. 7 p.m. Fri., Aug. 27. Schenley Plaza, Oakland. Free. All ages. 412-381-9131 or www.wyep.org