Us and Us Only
Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
Sometimes I look at an album cover and wonder how closely the raw feeling of the art is going to match the tone of the album. The cover of Baltimore natives, Us and Us Only’s latest depicts a spectral cowboy astride a horse, both looking out into the distance at a dimly lit cabin. Longing and distance come to mind immediately along with a sense of quiet serenity. That album, Full Flower, summons these feelings in full with acoustic and ambient textures that lend it a synthetic yet rustic charm.
Their latest and first full-length is built on the back of a series of EPs released from their start back in 2009. A blend of contemplative if downtempo melodies run throughout the length of this LP, with the soft vocals of Kinsey Matthews acting as the perfect companion. It’s careful with its pacing, with most of the tracks seemingly connecting to each other directly in their execution. It’s almost imperative to listen to the entire album as a connected whole, not dissimilar to a concept album.
Even so, certain tracks define themselves by what they make of the spaced-out production. “Kno” and “Bored for Black” are the best at this with both strumming along at a careful and methodical pace. “Kno” embraces a deep and plodding bass with a minute touch of jangle that gift the track with a dreamy sort of nostalgia. “Bored for Black” amps this up with a vocal delivery by Matthews that captures anxiety and angst in equal measure with discordant electronic textures. Yet for everything here, much of the album has a problem defining itself outside the very broad circle of indie pop with its easygoing pace too often working directly against it.
The title track is sonically the heaviest of everything they’ve made available here and perhaps for that reason it comes off more as a rude interruption. Oddly without this, much of the album falls too far into the deep end of sleepiness. “Dresses” and “Winter Sails” are both markedly serene, yet the layers of ambient sound casts heavy bags around the eyes at times. Making something calm and thoughtful is perfectly fine, it can even be great, but the trick is making those moment of calm interesting. While flawed, it’s rare that a band makes an album that comfortably floats in the periphery. If anything, Full Flower acts as a paean toward keeping things uncomplicated and balanced.