Guster's "Easy Wonderful" is filled with sunny, friendly, well-crafted rocky pop wall to wall. These guys have never sounded more joyful and in-sync - the album's title is perfectly chosen.
The lyrics all land perfectly, without a missing or superfluous syllable sticking its tongue out. This is a set of peaceful, fun-loving tunes that consistently catch hold and deliver high entertainment value. The band clearly labored intensively over the perfect execution of each track, which shows in the results.
"On the Ocean" sounds breezy, tropical and Beach Boys-like, both in its lyrics and its sonic atmosphere. "Do You Love Me" is peppy, full of handclaps and boundlessly sweet - a tune with the easy pep and energy of those that blare out of jukeboxes in a 50's-style diners. The tongue-in-cheek "This Could All Be Yours," an astute exercise in irony, is just as impressive with its sing-along chorus and spirited chanting.
Even the inventive, storytelling "Stay with Me Jesus," bristles with melodic verve and excitement, with intriguingly used synthesizers and harmonies. The results are pop music genius, or at least something like it. The bouncy "Jesus and Mary" and "That's No Way to Get to Heaven," which works in its acoustic sparseness, continue Christian themes. The guys are not proselytizing or even really preaching, but have clearly turned to religion for a source of inspiration from which to bounce ideas.
The infectious spirit that energizes the album does not cease. Despite its piercing lyrics of unrequited love, "This Is How It Feels to Have a Broken Heart" percolates with choppy, kinetic arrangements and stylings that let it glitter and glean with a sunny pop sheen. The piano-driven "Bad Bad World" follows in suit, which stands tall with its juicy, widescreen melody and cliched - yet welcome - yearning for peace and tranquility.
The same goes for "What You Call Love," which, despite its lyrical seriousness, sounds ready for a Hawaiian beachside concert, complete with lush, tropical-sounding guitars and Mariachi-style interjections.
This is a fall album that should have been released in summer.
The album ends strongly with the trippy, techno-infused "Do What You Want."
College frat houses aside, Guster has had a difficult time finding the proper venue. Neither mainstream listeners nor critics have much knowledge or love for the band. That matters little, though, since these guys know their strengths and weaknesses and put in the time in the studio and on stage to focus the former and minimize the latter, keeping their word-of-mouth fan base satisfied with compelling, sharply-executed music.
"Easy Wonderful" overflows with pop music so upbeat, friendly and optimistic - and strong - that it could easily frighten away humorless bureaucrats, unscrupulous businessmen and Anna Wintour. Fine enough reasons indeed to give it a listen.