Review Summary: An album that noticeably tries too hard.
In terms of mainstream indie-pop, it doesn’t get any more by-the-books than Guster. They’ve made a relatively successful career out of crafting easily digestible, highly infectious tunes that are somehow just as thoughtful as they are unabashedly mainstream. ‘Satellite’, ‘Architects & Engineers’, and ‘Do You Love Me’ have all probably blasted through your car’s speakers before, regardless of whether or not you knew who they were at the time. Their brand of laid back, catchy music made them one of many mid-2000’s alternative radio darlings, and even though a four year break has cut into their popularity a little bit, it’s still almost impossible to go to a mall or grocery store and not hear one of their hits. That’s what all artists dream of, right? Well, if you answered absolutely not
to that question, then you may have more in common with the members of this band than you think.
’s impending release was revealed, it was announced that the band was aiming to “become something else completely”, and rumors swirled that Shins keyboardist / Black Keys bassist Richard Swift would be involved. Throw in sax/trombone player Jon Natchez (a man who NPR proclaims to be “indie-rock’s most valuable sideman” because of his contributions to The War On Drugs, Passion Pit, and Beirut), and there was even more reason to believe that Guster was going to shock a lot of people in 2015. Things are certainly different here, but it’s not all for the better. Evermotion
slows things down and opens up to some predictable forms of “experimentation” (I wish I had a dollar for every time a band opted for lazy electronic effects and reverb and called it experimenting), but in the end all this proves to be is Guster lite – if that’s even possible.
The vast majority of Evermotion
demonstrates the tight pop tune-sense that has always made Guster relevant, it’s just painted on a different canvas. Instead of featuring sprightly, upbeat tempos and catchy verse-verse-chorus progressions, we have slow to unravel, gradually revealing songs that are slightly more complex and about half as memorable. Imagine ‘Satellite’ if it wasn’t catchy. That’s about three-quarters of the album if you’re willing to oversimplify things, not counting the charming, beat-driven single ‘Simple Machine.’ Opener ‘Long Night’ is about as close as Guster comes to realizing their experimental worth, with twinkling chimes, subtle classical piano, and gorgeously interwoven vocal harmonies, but even then the whole thing reeks of Shins worship. That’s not even necessarily a bad thing though, considering just how much influence The Shins have had over the indie music genre. What sucks is that it’s all downhill from there in terms of creativity, setting the scene for something that never really comes into fruition. At no point does Evermotion
descend into utter bilge, it just hovers in boring mid-tempo territory – offering up pretty
music that at times qualifies as atmospheric but has no edge, no aggression, and no sense of actual purpose.
isn’t unenjoyable by any means – there’s plenty of things that fans of popular alt/indie will find attractive. However, it simply isn’t anything new and it never even tries to convince us otherwise. The late album stretch of ‘Expectation’, ‘Gangway’, ‘Kid Dreams’ and ‘Never Coming Down’ hardly even varies, becoming a muddled mess of everything that’s unoriginal and tiresome about contemporary indie-pop. Richard Swift’s influence feels wasted throughout as there is little to no actual integration
of different styles; instead it’s just the band saying “hey, we want to make a real indie record” and bringing in someone with hefty influence in the field. Natchez has some nice instrumental cuts, but they’re largely out of place. The band’s actual songwriting capabilities actually appear to be at an all-time high, with songs that do more than simply build to a chorus and ride it. It’s just a shame that the songs lack the substance to give them lasting appeal. In the end, that (sadly) makes sacrificing the catchy verses and fun choruses a detrimental decision.
Don’t get me wrong, Evermotion
was absolutely the right move for Guster to make…that move, however, simply fell flat. What we’re left with is a somewhat novel approach that’s bolstered by improved songwriting, but ruined by a sheer lack of direction – or anything interesting to say. To quote the title of the album’s tenth track, it is just what it is
. If they continue their transformation from mainstream pop to alt/indie, they may find more inspiration during future endeavors. For now though, I’ll take my mall-going, catchy as hell version of Guster over Evermotion
– an album that noticeably tries too hard.