All posts by webb valarezo

Repeated Listens: Guster – “Easy Wonderful” (Review)

MP3: Guster – “Do You Love Me?”

Imagine a wine critic holding a glass of wine up to the light, studying the color and body before taking that first exciting sip, and then setting the glass down to think about what he’s looked at. Then, instead of picking up the glass to take his first drink, he picks up his pen and paper to write his review. This doesn’t happen in the wine world; it’s ludicrous to think that a critic would merely look at a wine and then write an entire review based on that one look. I’d like to think that before they start writing about a piece of art, whatever the medium, most critics spend some time with it, give it room to breathe, and let it do what it’s supposed to do.

I look at music much the same way, especially albums. People who care about what they’re doing have deliberately put together a collection of songs. There are themes, melodies, and (sometimes) lyrics that, in the end, equal more than the sum of their parts. It’s disheartening to think that some influential album reviews are written after only one pass, like my imaginary wine critic who skips the best part of the process.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to try a different way of reviewing music — a sort of deconstruction. After each listen, I jot down some notes. Eventually, I start to understand an album more clearly; as I become more familiar with the music, my feelings about it become more realized.

For my first go at this, I’d like to start with Easy Wonderful, Guster’s newest album. The Massachusetts band’s first three albums contained well crafted, catchy-as-hell indie folk, but it wasn’t until Keep it Together that Guster really came into their own as a multi-instrumental, envelope-pushing pop band, much the same way the Flaming Lips did with their fantastic 9th album, The Soft Bulletin. And like The Soft Bulletin, Guster’s Keep it Together had a joyful clarity. Some songs conjured up ethereal images of other worlds; others were direct and sweet, about love and friendship. If Keep it Together is where I fell in love with Guster, I’m hoping that Easy Wonderful keeps the love fresh. Continue reading…

Review: Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame

Dr. Dog sound like The Beatles. Or wait, no, they sound more like The Beach Boys. No, no, they sound exactly like The Band. That’s it, they sound like The Band. Wait no, that’s not it, now I’m hearing Gram Parsons. Now Pink Floyd? PINK FLOYD? You guys sound like Pink Floyd right now! What the hell?! Goddammit Dr. Dog, who do you sound like? I know it’s someone. You guys sound exactly like somebody, and someday I will figure it out.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of what you guys do because, when it comes down to it, it’s not who you sound like but what you sound like, and what you guys sound like is pure, feel-good, warm and fuzzy 60s rock.

Dr. Dog make the type of music that is so damn groovy you start to involuntarily squint your eyes, smile, and bob your head, wishing that somehow you could feel like this more often, but all the while grateful to have felt like this at all. Basically, Dr. Dog’s music makes you look and feel like that rare type of pothead who actually knows how to enjoy being stoned. Continue reading…