album reviews

Easy Wonderful
Aware/Universal Republic (2010)

Kindred spirits: Crowded House, Wilco, Simon & Garfunkel.

Much has changed in Guster's sound in the band's nearly two-decade career. In the early 2000s, the group switched from hand percussion to a traditional drum kit and expanded from a trio to include multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia (who recently left the band). The group's music has grown fuller and more conventional over time, but one thing hasn't changed: the band's harmony-laden, laid-back pop songs.

That easygoing demeanor is omnipresent on the group's sixth studio album, "Easy Wonderful." From the chanted choruses on "This Could All Be Yours" to the breezy vocals and toe-tapping rhythms of "What You Call Love," the group creates songs that sound as lighthearted and carefree as the first day of summer.

But things aren't always easy and wonderful. The track "Stay With Me Jesus" bears dark undertones beneath its upbeat feel and seemingly praise-heavy lyrics. The group could be making a statement about blind faith, but it's hard to hear much beyond the beauty in the swaying, warm vocals.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 22 October 2010
.: Easy Wonderful on