Saturday, May 22, 2010

Everything You Need to Know: Guster

by Melissa Coleman

About ten years ago, an album changed my life. My dad (who I obviously thought was super lame at the time,) played Lost and Gone Forever by Guster on the car stereo. I sat and listened, stunned. Three-part harmonies sang over the crashing of bongo drums and complex guitar arrangements. My Aaron Carter obsession disappeared instantly. This was what music was supposed to sound like.

Ryan Miller (vocals, various stringed instruments,) Adam Gardner (vocals, various stringed instruments,) Brian Rosenworcel (percussion) and Joe Pisapia (various stringed instruments and keyboard) hail from Massachussetts and comprise Guster.

Since their first album in 1995, they've released four more, gaining moderate mainstream success in the US. I have no idea why they aren't topping the charts. It's impossible for me to distinguish a favorite album between Lost and Gone Forever (1999) and Keep It Together (2003).

What makes Guster so amazing?

Maybe it's the instrumentation and arrangements. First, Rosenworcel plays drums without sticks... like with his bare hands. Besides that making him a beast, it gives an incredibly unique sound to the percussion (obvious on songs such as "Barrel of a Gun" and "Happier.") The other members also play an arsenal of unique instruments: lap steel, appalachian dulcimer and ukulele to name a few.

Maybe it's the unbelievably catchy harmonies. Miller and Gardner's voices together make my ears explode every time I listen (just barely an exaggeration.) Every song forces me to sing along. Even the lyrics are great, which is an added bonus.

Maybe it's their live shows. I got to see them in 2006 with my dad (who obviously was still super lame.) I saw their onstage banter firsthand, and I must say that it rivals Tegan and Sara's. They were so hilarious... and I got confusing crushes on all of them.

Amazingness aside, listening to Guster simply puts me in a good mood. Many of their songs (like "Amsterdam" and "Manifest Destiny") achieve the near-impossible: being optimistic without being cheesy. Other songs (like "Two Points for Honesty" and "Backyard") allow me to reflect and philosophize.. Every song engages me in every way, which is a feat since I get bored easily.

Oh, and once you're addicted to Guster, you'll have a reason to celebrate this fall. Their new untitled album drops in September. Get excited.

Essential Guster Playlist:

1. Barrel of a Gun (Lost and Gone Forever)

2. Backyard (Keep it Together)

3. Great Escape (Goldfly)

4. What You Wish For (Lost and Gone Forever)

5. The Captain (Ganging Up On the Sun)

6. Careful (Keep It Together)

7. I Spy (Lost and Gone Forever)

8. Amsterdam (Keep It Together)

9. Fa Fa (Lost and Gone Forever)

10. Jonah (Music For Relief for Haiti compilation album, 2010)

~ Melissa Coleman (


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