Four years after their last release, Guster has dropped back into the alternative music scene with their seventh studio album, “Evermotion.” Having produced the record partly under Nettwerk, their independent label, it makes sense that Guster would experiment and create a sound quite different from their earlier discography. While any artist should, indeed, be entitled to a bit of experimentation with their music, Guster may have had a bit too much time to detract from their original sound.
The record starts with a track filled with an ethereal, electronic surf sound that seems more fitting as a closing track. Despite this slow start, “Endlessly” chimes in immediately afterward and really justifies its place on the record with its chorus. While lead singer Ryan Miller endearingly beckons, “So come on, love,” the layers of sound created by the keyboard and electric guitar support a melody that appeals to those old daydreams of youth in love.
Different from “Endlessly,” which might actually be one of the few memorable tracks on the record, the rest of the album transitions to an almost surf-rock kind of sound that carries throughout. Guster amplifies this sound by pairing harmonies and a lap steel guitar.
However, “Simple Machine” presents itself as the most evident reflection of Guster’s experimental tangents as it incorporates everything from ‘80s pop synthesizers to teenage garage band beats (rhythmic clapping included). Miller cries, “I’ll never find my way back home,” and in the presence of all these competing sounds and influences, it makes sense that Guster would be yearning for a greater sense of stability. Even still, what they have maintained from their previous albums is the straightforwardness in their lyrics that definitely translate with an audience of any generation.
While the album’s overall soothing feel is enough to keep listeners from immediately changing the station on the radio, there is not so much distinctness of Guster’s sound in this new album. Even the somewhat distant vocals seem to put the album in its place as a background soundtrack intended for more mindless listening.
With “Farewell,” Guster closes with lengthy, drawn-out vocals that bring an appropriate (and perhaps anticipated) end to the record. Bringing closure with a computerized voice declaring, “We are free,” it seems best left to listeners to decide for themselves exactly who is making that declaration of freedom post-listen.
Rating: 2.5 stars