Guster: Ganging Up On The Sun (Ryko/Elite)

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Guster: Empire State
Guster: Ganging Up On The Sun (Ryko/Elite)

Gentle pop with overtones of Crowded House, Brian Wilson, alt.folk and Paul McCartney? Is there still a place for it?

On this their fifth album, which came out last year Stateside and gets belated release here now, this American quartet have honed their songcraft down to those key elements of acoustic-based pop: effortless chord changes, a foot-tapping beat, memorable melodies, harmony vocals, and just enough musical embellishment to keep your interest without being distracting.

So here you have dulcimer and pedal steel alongside electric guitar. But they also mix things up with some hefty rocking out just to keep everybody honest (the new wavish New Underground, The Beginning of the End) and go a very moody route at the other end of the spectrum (Ruby Falls, Empire State). So this is a collection of distinctive songs which, in a better world, might have scored at radio.

A bit MOR in places for sure, but there is a sense of summer days refracted through a slight world weariness that is also quite appealing.

I'm always a sucker for good pop, and I fell unashamedly for this one.

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