Margot & the Nuclear So and So's have created an album that both the casual music fan and music perfectionist will enjoy. The Dust of Retreat is a cinematic chamber pop songbook of what was once and what might have been. Singer/songwriter Richard Edwards, only in his early twenties when he composed these mini-epics, is quite fond of New York. Mesmerized by the Greenwich Village art scene of the 1960s and curious about how people lived during that time, he uses this interest as the inspiration behind The Dust of Retreat. Whether that is through film, poetry, or music, the notion that another world exists within those realms holds a romantic kind of quality. That kind of thing is nearly unimaginable unless you lived through it; however, Margot & the Nuclear So and So's build upon some of those castles in the sky. It takes a band of eight to realize this vision, as a lush assortment of strings, brass, percussion, and guitars keeps The Dust of Retreat at a steady pace, regardless of the mood and tone of each song. Edwards is like a less anxious Conor Oberst on the more melodic, folky tracks such as "On a Freezing Chicago Street" and "Skeleton Key." Hints of melancholy waltz along on the acoustically painted "A Light on a Hill" and "Jen Is Bringin the Drugs," but it's the orchestrated pop moments where The Dust of Retreat really takes shape. Just when you think Edwards' voice is going to break, he gains control again, particularly on the album's standout track, "Quiet as a Mouse." Edwards' soaring vocal keeps hope alive in the midst of sorting out self-discovery: "When I awoke/I was alive in somebody's room/I felt life and love and hope infesting my bones/Wake up, you've got a lot of things to do/Wake up, the sun is rising without you." You want to believe him. What The Dust of Retreat does for indie rock in 2006 is almost everything Neutral Milk Hotel wanted to do in 1998 with In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Just give it a chance. [The Dust of Retreat was resequenced and remastered for Artemis Records in 2006].
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson