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.
Today we get into the back half of the Guster catalogue with an album that happens to also be celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year! As usual, my good friend Ryan will be joining us to share his thoughts on this one too! So, let’s go gang up on the sun shall we?
Why This Album?
Of all the Guster albums, this is the one you have probably heard, even though you might not even realize it. Songs from this album have shown up in commercials, tv series and, even movies like the film Disturbia. If anything, this is the album that brought Guster closer to the mainstream than ever before, aaaaand they kinda just ignored it and just kept doing what they do best, and that is making music.
This album is chock full of some of the most introspective tunes from Guster thus far. Throughout the album there seems to be constant theme of searching for hope and a longing for normality, but, as always, with the fun upbeat pop sensibility that Guster is known for. There is one massive difference on this one that sets it apart from everything before it, if you’ve been listening….there is a significant lack of Adam in the lead or, really even doing much in the way of harmonies. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ryan Miller’s vocals as he is an incredible singer, but the lack of Adam on this album is very noticeable for anyone who has been listening to these albums in order.
Regardless of the significant lack of Adam, this is a very powerful, introspective and simply tremendous album that just works. In fact, being the 25th anniversary of this one, yeah…25 years….the band recently released an expanded edition that includes a really great ‘lost track’ by the name of ‘Emily Ivory’. My Guster Collaborator, Ryan Nims shared this really great video of Ryan Miller reacting to a song…he forgot he recorded. The song itself is a very Beatle-esque tune that really doesn’t fit the vibe of the album that was ultimately released but man it makes for a great B-side.
Ok, so, let’s see what Ryan Nims thinks about this one:
Is THIS my favorite Guster album? Musically, it’s brilliant. The 4-piece of Ryan, Adam, Brian and Joe really gelled here. It’s really, really good. But it doesn’t carry with it the kinds of memories that the previous releases have. And I’m not sure why. I think in 2006, I was just listening to different styles of music, and while this album got a lot of play, I just don’t connect it with that time in my life.
However, as Kheas said, this was perhaps the closest that Guster got to mainstream success. They had finally moved up to Reprise proper; no more being on indie labels like Hybrid or Palm Pictures with major label distribution. They were in the big leagues. And with that came the end of the Guster Rep program. The third and final Pasty Tapes CD released prior to this album, and that was the end of it. So, in a way, this album felt like the end of an era, and perhaps because of this, I kind of fell off the Guster bandwagon for a little while… But I shan’t get ahead of myself.
From the opening notes of the pump organ on “Lightning Rod” to the final guitar strum of “Hang On,” this perhaps the band’s best album musically to date. Joe Pisapia, who was a featured guest on Keep it Together, was by now a full member of the band, leading to a fuller sound.
One historical footnote: in October of 2005, Adam Gardner along with Dave Schneider of Hockey-themed pop band the Zambonis released their sole album as the LeeVees. Hanukkah Rocks is, as one might assume, a Hannukah album. It’s not a bad album, and let’s face it, with the glut of Christmas albums out there, it’s nice to know that this exists for those who celebrate Hannukah!
Man, this just keeps getting harder and harder. As usual, I will ignore the super popular tracks, even though I simply ADORE Satellite and One Man Wrecking Machine, but, let’s be honest, you probably already know those.
The Captain is my first choice. With a simple almost folky feel, that to me is about moving forward, past the pain and the hardship, no matter what following your own personal Captain that lives in your head.
Ruby Falls….. Oh man…this song…. I can’t even begin to describe it but….seriously…listen.
My third choice was a tough one, but I have to limit myself or else I would just list them all…and that just wouldn’t be right. So….I am going for the final track on the album, Hang On. And…that’s what I’m going to tell you right now. No matter how bad things get…just hang on… there’s a twilight, a nightime…and a dawn. So just hang on.
Ryan again. I’d like to add “Dear Valentine,” Adam’s only lead vocal on this album. I’m not sure what was going on around this period, but the dual lead of Ryan and Adam kind of went away starting with Keep it Together. Adam’s voice is so unique and rich, that to have it relegated to background vocals has always been a bit of a disappointment. After all, the play between the two vocalists was one of the things that first turned me on to Guster!
Ok, Where do I get it?
I am sending you to the folks at Discogs for this one. This is the original release...and you can also pick up the incredible expanded version or just listen to it here….
Late to the Game 4/5/2022
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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