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.
So far we have made our way through the first three albums of Guster, our chosen band for this leg of this series, and we come to the album that re-introduced me to these guys, an album called Keep It Together. As usual, we are joined again by Ryan who will tell us his take on this album as well!
Why This Album?
I honestly don’t remember how I came across this one, I think I stumbled across it when I was shopping at a local Hastings Entertainment store, but I am not 100% sure. Needless to say, I was rather surprised to find out that Guster had continued after their tremendous Goldfly album. As I mentioned in that one, I figured that this band had just petered out like so many others in the 90’s but, no, not only had they kept going, they had become something truly amazing. From this point on, I never missed another album release and have been a fervent fan ever since.
The album itself is a tough one to review, not because it’s bad, it’s because it is just so good. If I had to choose any album from their discography to keep and the rest had to be erased forever, this would probably be THAT album. Sure, we would lose some AMAZING songs in the process, but, to me, THIS is definitive Guster. Everything you could possibly want from a Guster album is in this, from the amazing harmonies of Adam & Ryan to the bongo/percussion of Brian but we also get some phenomenal banjo action this time around from both Adam, Ron Aniello and Joe Pisapia. What makes this album even cooler is it features another artist that I also think is tremendous and that guy is one Ben Kweller. Ben, who would go on to play with Ben Folds and do a ton of great solo albums provided guest vocals on one of my favorite tracks ‘I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today’.
Keep It Together is one of the most hopeful and melodic albums you will ever hear. Sure, Guster, as usual, goes into some dark places at times but all through the record there is an underlying current of pure hope. Several songs on this album are as emotionally intense as they are uplifting, even in their sorrow. I honestly don’t know if I could recommend a better starter album for anyone who wanted to know what Guster sounded like and if this is your first intro to this band, well, you are certainly in for a treat. Just be warned, while everything else is great, this to me, is peak Guster.
So now it’s Ryan’s turn…
What Ryan thinks:
Okay, I have said it before, but this actually might be my favorite Guster album. I’m not afraid to say that I own no less than three physical versions of this: Standard CD, Special Edition in bound book format, and vinyl–more on that last one in a bit. This is one of those albums that really takes me back in time. This released at a time when I had been laid off from one job, and had started another.* So after a little of a dark period of unemployment, I had developed a tiny modicum of confidence, and this was one of two records that really felt like the soundtrack to that summer (the other was Welcome Interstate Managers from Fountains of Wayne, released about two weeks before Guster’s album).
*My boss at that job was rather religious, and when he’d come into my office hearing things like “Jesus on the Radio” or the bonus track, “Two at a Time” which is about Noah’s Ark, he was happy I was listening to good Christian music. I decided not to tell him the band members are all Jewish.
As I said, though, I had become a bit more confident, so when I took my brothers to Austin to see Guster later that year–emboldened by meeting the O.G. Guster Rep, Pasty–record and Official Guster Rep card in hand, I snuck us up to the green room after the show to meet the guys and get my record signed. This record is one of the treasures of my admittedly modest collection, and has seen some play.
Signatures clockwise from top left: Brian , Adam, Joe, Ryan. I don’t remember who drew the halo over the hummingbird’s head, I think maybe Ryan, but I can’t be certain.
Finally, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention one of Guster’s more baffling projects: The Meowstro Sings: Guster’s Keep It Together, a digital-only release that featured the backing tracks being sung over by meowing… It’s weird. Good for a novelty, but takes away some of the emotional weight of songs like “Ramona” or “Come Downstairs and Say Hello.”
This part is so hard because there is literally NOT a bad song on this album. I mean, ask me any day and I would probably have a slightly different lineup every time. However, these are the three that really hit for me this time around and continue to do so.
One song in particular on this gets me every time and that one is called Come Downstairs and Say Hello. This song is all about change and how you face it every single day. Or, at least that’s how I interpreted it. There’s a lyric in this one that I still use as a mantra from time to time.
To tell you the truth, I’ve said it before
Tomorrow I start in a new direction
One last time these words from me
I’m never saying them again
I mentioned this one above, but I hope Tomorrow Is Like Today is an absolute favorite and, one that always just gives me a strange hopeful feeling.
Jesus On The Radio has some of the best banjo picking this side of bluegrass and I got a deeper appreciation for this when I saw the band in concert several years back and they played this at the end completely acoustical with nothing but themselves. Before long the entire audience were singing along and, it was magical.
Ok, Where do I get it?
Once again, it’s Discogs for this one but, if you can find it, there is a tremendous 10th anniversary edition that has some fabulous bonus tracks. Or, as usual, there is spotify. Honestly though, buy this one. trust me. it needs to be in your collection.
Late to the Game 7/27/2021
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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