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7. Guster - Keep It Together (2003)

I discovered this record thanks to a friend who asked for it for his birthday and then was kind enough to play it for me. Every year I have at least one album and artist that was nowhere on my radar but landed in my path even so. I love that.

If you take a quick look at my top 20 favorite artists list (go ahead, I’ll wait), it is probably pretty easy to figure out what kind of music I like best. I’m a sucker for songs with hooks galore, harmonies abounding, la la, ooh, bah bah background vocals everywhere, and ringing guitars dominating. The Beach Boys, XTC, The Beatles, and The Monkees are all staunch purveyors of this sound. So are Guster.

As someone who loves words and writing I hate to say it, with pop music lyrics don’t matter. They’re really just there to rhyme and sing along with and not be distracting. When pop music really excels, it’s when the lyrics are deep and interesting and clever without taking attention away from the song itself. Guster is a band that knows how to do that.

The best songs on the album are so musically sound that you feel like you can sing along on the first listen. As for the lyrics, they are mostly about moving on, getting over heartache and the past but not necessarily wanting to. The first single, Amsterdam, is textbook power pop, a kiss-off song that makes the line “I’m gonna write you a book” sound like an insult. Come Downstairs And Say Hello comes on languid but blossoms with conviction: “tomorrow I start in a new direction.” Careful addresses a self-destructive friend (or lover) who needs a wake up call. I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today has the most optimistic title you could ever ask for, yet we find that the narrator doesn’t want tomorrow to be like today because today was so great, but because he’s scared to lose what he has.

In conclusion, if you’ve always been looking for that album that begins with an ode to making out and ends with a children’s choir singing about Noah’s Ark, then look no further!

Rating: A
Fave Song: Careful

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