Review Summary: Guster's first album is a charming, simple, and sweet record, never lacking in tenderness.
Guster is a band I fell in love with way back during my first year of high school, and, to be honest, I'm surprised they are not more popular than they actually are. Here is a lovely little independent rock band that has a proclivity for writing the most pleasing of pop songs. Their first album, Parachute, is more stripped down than later works, but it is a good start for such a talented group of musicians.
Getting into the sound of Parachute is not difficult at all. After hearing the first couple songs on the LP, you should be able to determine whether or not this album is for you. Most of the songs utilize the same template of instruments: acoustic guitars, drums, and bongos. What makes the album compelling and appealing is the plethora of lighthearted melodies and very supple vocals from both Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner. However, the LP does lag on a few tracks and the percussion sections, particularly the bongos, are slightly repetitive and overused. While the bongos are an exquisite addition to the overall feel of the album, the band relies heavily on them to the point in which their value is slightly diminished by the end of the record. Nonetheless, the bongos produce a fantastic bubbly effect on songs like "Love for Me" and "Eden".
Despite the album's lack of variety, there are plenty of enjoyable tracks that keep the album alive with jubilation and warmth. "Mona Lisa" is a brilliant acoustic piece and one of the album's most emotionally deep tracks. Guster demonstrates their ability to write an immensely somber tune about loneliness in such an attractive and tender way. Guster establish themselves as an innocent, gentle, and benevolent group through irresistibly catchy rock songs. The band shakes things up on "Window" by adding a delicate violin over a breezy guitar riff. Throughout the album the band makes a conscious effort to entertain the listener, while enjoying themselves in the process. Therefore, the personal connection between Guster and the listener goes a long way on Parachute.
After three songs that melt into one another nicely but don't exactly bring anything new to the table, "Dissolve" gives Miller the opportunity to thrill the audience with his stunning vocals and contemplative lyricism. The track shines with sentimentality and glares into the past with sheer distress. The explosion of percussion on "Cocoon" works very well, framing itself around a truly gratifying acoustic bridge halfway through the song. The spotlight on the acoustic guitar is a nice change of pace, especially on a track that is, at first, dominated by two sets of vocals.
"Happy Frappy", a spirited pop song with one of the band's most infectious choruses, is the perfect embodiment of "old Guster". The track is often unjustly forgotten, even by the band members themselves. Nevertheless, it will always stand alone as a beloved favorite among the most passionate of fans. Everything about the song is fantastic, including the rich guitars and the overarching summery quality of the instruments. Closing with the soft-spoken title track, the album ends on a more mellow note and sends the listener off with a grin.
Parachute is a likable record, assuming one can get into the formulaic production of the tracks. While not the band's most exciting release, Parachute is a friendly, sweet-tempered pageantry of pop. Basically, if you like this album, you're going to absolutely love Guster!