THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Album Review

Simply put, ‘Easy’ does it for Guster

October 4, 2010

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Calling your album “Easy Wonderful’’ is like putting a target on your back. Luckily, the men of Guster know a little bit about making the simple sound splendid. Out tomorrow, the band’s sixth release feels less elaborate than the last two. The Tufts-bred pop rock quartet is still interested in layering varied instrumentation— banjos and synthesizers, warped electric guitars and clanging bells — to achieve different textures, “Easy’’ just feels a bit cleaner and less symphonically ambitious. But that doesn’t mean it’s less diverse.

The incongruously upbeat “This Is How It Feels to Have a Broken Heart’’ — which makes making a mess of love downright danceable — is a swirling collision of disco and worldbeat that evokes “Naked’’-era Talking Heads. “Stay With Me Jesus’’ has a hymnlike austerity, spare but building toward a rich climax. “On the Ocean’’ drifts along on a cool, contemplative breeze. And then there is the classic Guster sound of songs like “Do You Love Me’’ — a sunny pop ditty with a keening singalong chorus and jaunty handclaps — and the amiable ambler “Architects + Engineers.’’ Stacked harmonies and stick-in-your-head melodies remain high on the band’s list of priorities. While Luke Reynolds recently debuted as the band’s new bassist, the album serves as a swell swan song for the amicably departing songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia — in whose Nashville studio “Easy Wonderful’’ was partially recorded.

SARAH RODMAN

ESSENTIAL “This Is How It Feels to Have a Broken Heart’’