That's the word in a nutshell for Guster's 6th disc "Easy Wonderful". At first I was a bit thrown off - hearing it first, I got used to how "Do You Love Me?" sounded, and was thrown when other parts of the album sounded less so - really, the hushed, mellow "Stay With Me Jesus" is so mellow it leads one to miss (and I did, at first) the cutting satire buried within. Then when you notice, it turns an otherwise unassuming track into a one-two punch. Their previous disc "Ganging Up On The Sun" had what I would call their crowning track ever "Satellite" but as a whole felt uneven - they went from happy, to angry, to sad, and back and forth again, with stylistic shifts that made it sound like they weren't exactly sure what sort of album they wanted to make.
This time around they seem a lot more focused. Surprising, as this album was half recorded, stalled, then finished using a set of songs that went off in a whole new direction, as reports suggest. And David Kahne handling production doesn't over-sugarize it as I feared (can we say Sugar Ray going completely maple syrup with 14:59, anyone?) Really, they borrow his better ideas - layered sounds, catchy melodies, and great harmonies. There is the bizarrely danceable "This is how it feels to have a broken heart", the finger-waggling admonishment of "What you call love", and yet this time, they cover the range of emotions and it all feels like a unified piece. They even pull off a second coming (no pun intended) of razor-sharp satire with "Jesus & Mary" - a stripped down, drum-beat-designed-to-stick-in-your-head track that stands as far more intelligent than most similar-sounding power-pop.
Some tracks layer on the instruments a tad much, yet it is not impossible to imagine these songs sounding great done live (And having seen them live since I wrote this the first time around, I have, and they do)
The album still sounds like a BAND, in any case, and that's what makes it all work. Guster has a history, so far, of taking a lengthy break between each album released - indeed, often long enough to make me wonder if the next one will ever come - but then, I can be impatient at times. This one was worth the wait - they just keep getting better, and there seems to be no stopping them. If you don't have this one, go out and grab it now - be it your itunes, or your local store, however you can, get your hands on it. My oldest praise of fine music , if a bit over-used, still fits here - your ears will thank you.