Easy Wonderful

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Guster have long suffered under the misinformation that pegs them as some kind of jock-beloved jam band. Just because the drummer once played with his hands instead of sticks and you’re loved by jocks, that’s not enough to trap you in the jam band ghetto. Really, Guster are a pop band, pure and simple. A tuneful, thoughtful and consistently good pop band whose albums are reliably full of sweetly tender lyrics, richly crafted performances, and an overall feeling of warmth and peacefulness. Not the kind of thing critics fawn over, but obviously something that resonates with a large number of people. The band’s sixth album, Easy Wonderful, is yet another solid album from the group and one that lives up to its title. The songs range from gentle strum-alongs to peppy rockers as usual, but they throw in a few tricks here and there to keep things humming along. Whether it’s the horn section on "What You Call Love," the percolating world beat/disco beat on "This Could All Be Yours," or the techno-pop synths on "Do What You Want," the bandmembers prove they aren’t afraid to experiment a little. Mostly, though, the album is first-class guitar pop played with just the right amount of emotion, restraint, and brains -- not to mention hooks, as “Do You Love Me” is the kind of perfectly arranged, completely catchy song that should send power pop enthusiasts running for the thesaurus to look for synonyms for hooks. (That those folks will probably never even hear the song is a failure of their imagination and possibly the band’s own marketing. Of course, who needs insider validation when you have mass appeal?) Above it all are the honeyed voices of Adam Gardner and Ryan Miller, trading leads and joining together in rich harmonies that could melt the hardest hipster hearts. The words they sing on Easy Wonderful are typically smart and insightful, often delving into questions of religion and faith to the point of confusion. While on the surface it may sound like Guster have turned in their Torahs for Bibles on a song like "Stay with Me Jesus," it’s really a satirical takedown of the belief that Jesus protects some people while leaving others to fend for themselves. It’s ideas like this that help distance Guster from the usual jam band fodder, especially when they are wrapped in tunes as instantly hooky and constantly listenable as those on Easy Wonderful. If you are looking for big-hearted, easy-to-swallow guitar pop, you could do much worse than Guster. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to do much better.

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