Guster - Easy Wonderful (Aware Records 2010)
Easy Wonderful, the sixth album from Guster, is a polished pop gem that I can't stop listening to. Well, I am actually physically capable of stopping, I just don't want to. Guster expertly blend folk, rock and pop on the self-produced album, and co-vocalists Adam Gardner and Ryan Miller trade off on some great lyrics.
Before Easy Wonderful, my only familiarity with Guster was what two of my friends played in their cars on road trips. Two songs always stuck out to me, "Satellite" (from 2006's Ganging Up On The Sun) and "Rocketship" (from 1997's Goldfly). Easy Wonderful demonstrates just the right mount of progression from both of those eras. Different enough that they aren't rerecording the same album over and over, but not so different that they've completely changed styles. More poppy than "Satellite," more upbeat than "Rocketship."
The interplay between acoustic and electric guitars is excellent. The bass is subtle but effective. It can heard behind the guitars, but is never thrust so far into the foreground that it's distracting, as I've often noticed in bands like Guster. The drums could be better, mainly because it sounds like percussionist Brian Rosenworcel was playing regular drums on all but a few songs instead of the hand drums he built his reputation on.
Guster have never been afraid of experimenting with non-traditional rock sounds, that that trend continues on Easy Wonderful. The keyboard intro, harmonica and what sounds like a mandolin on "This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart" are well executed. "Stay With Me Jesus" as a folksy, Wide Awake-era Bright Eyes kinda vibe, but backed by an oddly distorted keyboard. There are some great horns backing "That's No Way To Get To Heaven," which is also one of the only songs I hear hand drums on. The band also employs the use of gang vocals, my favorite example being the chorus on "This Could All Be Yours."
All in all, a great album. A true pop gem that hopefully will cut through all the crap on radio to get some mainstream recognitions. Highly recommended. Favorite tracks include "Architects And Engineers," "This Could All Be Yours," and "This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart."