Music » Critics' Picks

These United States

9 p.m. Wednesday, September 3. Billiken Club, in the Busch Student Center on the campus of Saint Louis University, 20 North Grand Boulevard

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Whenever Jesse Elliott and his sister would begin to bicker in the back seat on family car trips, their mother would threaten them with participating in campfire sing-alongs. Though the harmonica-led tunes were intended to be a creative form of discipline, Elliott (who records as These United States) now realizes that the family sing-alongs were a strong influence on his approach to songwriting. "For me, music is a communal thing," he says. "I think this is part of what I've always loved about African music, and also even the campfire thing. I never thought about that connection before." The music on his A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden finds inspiration in landscapes, bright colors and indigenous folk music from a period of his life spent in Mexico, as well as in the objects of his pining while in Europe. Still, his musings condense quite tidily into a surprisingly pop-conscious product in spite of the varied perspectives involved.

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