Stand Out Albums has been a showcase for my favorite albums across the vast performers that I love. Covering a little bit of everything from classic rock to country hits, much like Key Movies of My Life, it has been the albums that shaped me.
After wrapping our reviews of the Posies studio discography last week, I figured it would be worth exploring another harmonic band that is less ‘power’ and much more pop. That band? Guster. The album? Their first release, Parachute.
As a special treat, we have guest blogger @ryannims joining us for this series to add in his two or four cents. He might agree with me, tell me I am absolutely bonkers or, just give us some fun info that we didn’t know.
Why This Album?
I discovered Guster in May of 1998 from the CMJ New Music Monthly cd and the tune ‘Airport Song’. From that point on, I was hooked and so, of course, I went on a quest to find more music from Guster. Only this time, there was only two albums to choose from. Naturally I went with the one with Airport Song on it and, well, that ended up being their second album entitled ‘Goldfly’. Picking up that album, what really captured me were the harmonies between singers Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner. There was a certain magic there that really made this band worth exploring further. It would be much longer until I finally picked up Parachute and, well, it really wasn’t what I was expecting.
I know, this sounds like I was horribly dissapointed in the album, and I really wasn’t, it’s just that this album is VERY different from pretty much everything that came after it. Parachute is chock full of pleasant, catchy, almost Saccharine tunes, that, to be blunt, make this album almost too sweet. Everything feels so sugar coated that you find yourself almost overwhelmed by it’s sweetness. That being said, Parachute is a fabulous debut album that, had this been my first introduction to Guster, I might feel differently about it. However, having had been exposed to their much more accomplished work with albums like Lost and Gone Forever and Ganging Up on The Sun before this one, well, this album pales in comparison to what is to come.
I guess the best way to describe Parachute is that it is a spark that, if tended to and given proper attention, you will get to see it bloom into something amazing. It’s a great exploration of where this band came from and how much they have evolved and matured in nearly 30 years. The transformation is nothing short of spectacular and, if you have never listened to Guster, start here only so you can see that evolution for yourself.
And now we hand it over to Ryan, it’s all yours!
What Does Ryan think?
My introduction to Guster was also hearing “Airport Song” and wanting to know more, but Parachute was also released in its second printing* by Aware Records, a label who worked as sort of a middleman between fully independent bands and major labels. Aware released albums from several bands who made it big in the mid-to-late 90s (readers may be familiar with bands like Vertical Horizon, Five for Fighting and Train, or singer-songwriters Mat Kearney and John Mayer). However it was that I ultimately discovered Guster, I picked up both Parachute and Goldfly and became obsessed! I was so enamored of the band, that I joined their Guster Rep program, about which I will have more to say when we get to Goldfly.
Parachute is definitely a diamond in the rough compared to their later albums: it’s a bit low-fi, the vocals are kind of rough, but everything else is pure Guster! The harmonies are fantastic, the lyrics thoughtfully humerous, and the hand drumming is exuberant.
*The album was initially self-released on the band’s own Ocho Mule label (which the band still uses to this day). Thing is, back then the band was called Gus; they eventually added the “ter” as there were several other bands or artists recording under the name Gus. I managed to find my own copy of the Gus version at a Thrift shop in Austin, TX–well, booklet and disc anyway. Musically, everything is the same as the more widely available Aware version.
Their Title Track, Parachute, is honestly one of the best on this album. It’s a hint of what is to come and something quite special.
Window is one that stood out to me as it had a very country vibe to it that just worked. This is one that really features the harmonies between singers Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner, the two that will really come to the forefront over the course of their releases.
The Prize is one that features the bongos this band seems to really love playing. Brian Rosenworcel is a Bongo Genius and knows those skins like no one’s business. The song itself has a Beatle-esque vibe that just works.
Ryan here again! I’d like to recommend “Happy Frappy” as a personal favorite from this record. Gardner’s singing about a monkey swinging from tree to tree is the perfect lyrical accompaniment to this free-wheeling, sparkly, guitar-driven pop song.
Ok, Where do I get it?
This one is pretty much out of print. You can grab a copy via discogs or, as usual, hit up spotify. This may not be my favorite in the Guster discography, but I had to start at the beginning if I was going to get to the stuff I really love. Give it a go, it’s a solid album, but trust me, it gets even better with Goldfly…
Late to the Game 7/6/2021
Thanks for reading, If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and also check out some retro tv goodness with the ongoing series Retro TV Reviews here. You can also find a few of my other Music Reviews Here.
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