Yesterday we posted an interview
's Ryan Miller, and his new project scoring the new motion picture Safety Not Guaranteed
. We've always been big fans of their affable nature. The 90s rock band are as classic of a collegiate favorite as they come, forming at Tufts in Boston and rooting their acousta-pop in vocal harmonies and on-stage humor, and we couldn't resist the opportunity to run down our thoughts on six of their best, most essential songs.
1. "Satellite" Ganging Up On The Sun
This album is kind of like Guster's twisted fantasy, and "Satellite" takes their usual harmony-based bongo-fare and turns its focus to a wobbly electro-riff and intricate guitar parts. There's still the classic Guster gusto in there, it's just something about the way their usual sound is refracted in this prism gives it an extra oomph unfelt in the umpteenth campfire collection. Full disclosure: this is my personal favorite Guster song.
2. "Amsterdam" Keep It Together
A close second is the golden age of Guster-era "Amsterdam," the pinnacle of their classic sound manifesting in electrical accents in the early aughts. This one's got everything -- the choral accents, the brisk tempo, and the guitar work that closely resembles (and is easily recreated) by human voices. Guster really makes those instruments sing, and that's always been the crux of their appeal.
3. "Parachute" Parachute
The title track off the band's debut album is easily their most affecting tune, stripped down and raw nerves, all vocal harmony and bongo-for-emphasis. When people think 'Guster,' often they picture all the qualities of this song (and that's not a bad thing at all). It remains one of their best constructs -- easily identifiable, and automatically effective. Although "Two Points For Honesty" is probably the band's perfect ballad, the emotional weight of later songs began to accumulate on "Parachute" and although each one adds a bit of instrumental sophistication to the mix, "Parachute" always seems to beat it out.
3. "Great Escape" Goldfly
Those classic Guster harmonies drove most of the melodies -- the strength of their vocals often drove songs, but in the case of "Great Escape," it was also a kinetic bit of sentimentality and some great hook writing.
4. "Barrel of a Gun" Lost and Gone Forever
The younger brother of "Great Escape," pretty much better at everything in theory, but for some inexplicable reason, can't beat him at anything.
5. "Careful" Keep It Together
Probably the best example of Guster's harmony-as-hook writing, "Careful" has a chorus vocal riff that will superglue itself to your cerebral cortex.
6. "Lightning Rod" Ganging Up On The Sun
Apart from the bongos and those signature voices, you wouldn't even know this is a Guster song, and that's why I love it so. How heartbreaking is the guitar slide after the first couple of bars after the chorus? It's the outer limits. I've always been interested to see what would have happened if this and "Satellite" had somehow dictated later aesthetic directions in their songs, but 2010's Easy Wonderful
didn't really embrace this kind of darker emotion, except for a little bit in "Architects and Engineers" and "Do What You Want" (and a few other brief moments).
Honorable Mention: "Architects and Engineers"
This is the Guster song that made it on to the Safety Not Guaranteed
Be sure to check out our interview with Ryan to see him play one of the songs he wrote for
Safety Not Guaranteed, in theaters now.