For years, Guster has been high on my list of elite song-crafters and performance artists. A small outfit that started as an acoustic/percussion powerhouse on the college circuit has, inevitably, gone through redefining evolutions throughout their career span. We are and have been witnessing the transformation from explosive acoustic guitar vamping storytellers on early records such as "Goldfly" & "Lost & Gone Forever" into more cinematic, mood chasers on their most recent releases "Evermotion" and, from what I can tell so far, "Look Alive".
Gone are the days of a typical garage band backline consisting of guitars and a (loosely defined) drum set (saw Brian playing a hybrid snare/djembe in Philly); in come the synths and drum machines alike. This wave of redefinition is sure to be a brilliant one. The title track "Look Alive" was one of my favorite songs released early, featuring a delay-drenched, retro-esque synth stealing the song for me; as well as an eerie, compressed parlor piano replacing the guitars for the most part. A nice hyrbid of organic and vintage electronic drum sounds are showcased in there, too. It clearly signaled they are living in the sound art realm, at least for a little while as the song's bridge is border-line experimental. One of my favorite moments of this tune its the undeniable prosody of a gated synth proceeding 2nd verse line "pumping on the brakes". All in all, a super intriguing track that pulls you in from the get go with their patented catchiness.
"Don't Go" returns to some familiar roots with a fresh, vibrant feel (Do I hear a Moog!?) Even as far back as the "Keep It Together" days when the instrumentation was more straight-forward, you could sense the band has an amazing knack for melody and layered soundscapes.. It's what makes everything sound so intelligent yet danceable. They are definitely paying homage to this trait in this number. The whole song builds from scratch until right before the outro where it returns to that catchy, christmas-like bellpad synth chiming clear and sweet, then into the epic closer. Lyrics "Don't go making something out of nothing" rings as stark contradiction because this song does just that! "What do you think it will change?" Well, everything Guster. This song changes everything for me.
Last but not least, the 3rd and final pre-release of "Look Alive" is my absolute favorite. I didn't immediately gel with the track as the lyrical structure and timing of the verses is quite unique, but it's now one of my favorite Guster songs out there. The huge vocal swells with modulation across the track, pushing you forward into an extremely driving yet ambient chorus; only to pull the bottom out from underneath us like a floor-less roller coaster in the bridge. Then, that moment the backups and chorus finally link up cleverly in the outro really delivers the payload for me. It was a fantastic moment, with the flanger guitars at the forefont of this, leading the band into a development of the chord progression and concluding the song with a bang. Brian Rosenworcel, Ryan Miller, Luke Reynolds, Adam Gardner; bravo gentlemen! Look forward to the full release January 18th, 2019! Please enjoy title track "Look Alive" below.