Guster: Come Downstairs and Say Hello
Guster were a hometown folk rock college band when I first found them in the clubs of Boston in the early nineties, but by the time they released 2003 album Keep It Together, they were already well-known on the international college radio scene, opening for the Dave Matthew Band, filling medium-sized halls and mid-afternoon frat rock festival crowds from Northampton to Toronto. The dual acoustic guitars, nasal vocal harmonies, and frenetic hand-drumming which were their early hallmark had turned a bit to something a bit more alt-rock, thanks to the introduction of multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia, and a change in their primary instrumentation to electric/acoustic hybrid and a more traditional drum kit.
In many ways, though other, earlier hits such as 1999 Adult Top 40 charter Fa Fa would prove to be more popular, this personal favorite from Guster's catalog represents a magnum opus of sorts for the trio-turned full-sized band - a hazy, dreamy proto-shoegaze ballad that slows to a false, frozen denouement at its midpoint, only to build into a pulsing new-wave sunrise without skipping a lyrical beat at the three minute mark. Lyrically and sonically, the song calls to the passive-depressive ennui and self-imposed isolation of many members of their post-collegiate alternative fan-base, with the shift in music serving as the crucial promise of life and energy upon release from exile; listen for the early reference to the infamous Wizard Of Oz/Dark Side Of The Moon parallel as a sort of metaphor, laying a pop-culture-positive foundation for this emergence even as the change in tone matches that of both Pink Floyd's own opus and the shift into color which Dorothy experiences.