From 2007 to 2012, songwriter Jesse Elliott led rock & roll band These United States through five studio albums and nearly 1,000 live performances in the U.S., Canada and Europe, appearing everywhere from Glastonbury to SXSW, Daytrotter to Lollapalooza and garnering praise from NPR, The New York Times, SPIN, KEXP and others.
The Dream of You & Me is the debut record from Ark Life, a new project fronted by Elliott. In early 2013, Elliott stopped in Denver on his way to a new life in New York and started making music with pianist Lindsay Giles, bassist Anna Morsett (of TUS), guitarist Natalie Tate and veteran Denver drummer Ben Desoto. The result was Ark Life, a project that has now shared the stage with Ringo Starr, The Head & the Heart, Ryan Bingham and more. Produced by Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats, The Dream of You & Me is made up of equal parts mischief and heartthrob, inspired by the band’s enduring love for CCR, Tom Petty, Motown and the campfire singalong.
Ark Life recently premiered What You Want To on Purevolume which is taken from their debut album. What You Want To has some brilliant thought-provoking lyrics, “I should have folded that letter/I should have looked for a phone/I should not smile at these strangers/I should pack up and depart/But the heaviest weight on my heart/Is not what I should do/But what I want to…” What You Want To is a little bit Jackson 5 in places; the tempo, the funk inspired keyboard and the soulful vocals all aid this. What You Want To is a marvellous blend of good and strong mind-opening lyrics, Americana, Folk, Jazz and Funk.
Contrasting this upbeat sound, You’re With Me follows What You Want To. You’re With Me is a ballad featuring female vocals to start with in a gospel inspired, harmonic setting. It’s such an angelic beginning to a song making it perfectly beautiful. The harmonies are gorgeous and silky. This track is so simple consisting of vocals and piano with the occasional help from the bass drum or an odd electric guitar chord. It’s a pure song with pure lyrics, “If they ask who snuck you in/Say me baby/If they want to know who took you in/Just say me”. You’ll fall in love with this track – guaranteed.
Molly Brown brings the beat back. It’s straight back to the upbeat Americana style. Molly Brown has an addictive melody and feel to it. It’s just a briliant, uplifting number with Elliot’s odd yet attractive vocals.
While Molly Brown is uplifting in one sense of the word, She is uplifting in a different way. There’s a very strong rock & roll feel to this track. If you’ve heard Imelda May, whose tracks feature that typical Blues guitar tone, then you’ll probably love this track. She is a little bit like the sort of sound Robert Plant and Alison Krauss brought to the limelight a few years ago with their Raising Sand album.
Rock & Roll (Take It Easy) finishes the album nicely. It has a jazzy, soft feel with an incredibly catchy chorus and blissful harmonies. Rock & Roll (Take It Easy) is simple but effective. In some ways, it could be seen as Elliot’s way of saying goodbye to the one band (These United States) and welcoming his new adventures with the next, “There comes a time in every man’s life/Shoot shoot the best of me/When they can’t dance….Has to settle down and find himself a good loot…Shoot shoot he tries/Maybe a saxophone can get him back right…”
Rock & Roll (Take It Easy) is the perfect ending track to an absolutely magnificent debut album. Ark Life’s The Dream Of You & Me will leave you speechless. You’ll be feeling uplifted, reminiscent, questioning and wondering all at the same time. The lyrics are astonishingly open, clever and worldly while the music is joyful and vintage yet fresh.
Ark Life’s The Dream Of You & Me is out on August 19 on Misra Records/Greater Than Collective.