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Music and Human Relationships as a Game with Tim Kasher: Album Review

Uncategorized | Oct 22, 2010

Music and Human Relationships as a Game with Tim Kasher: Album Review

Tim Kasher is one of the most prolific songwriters in today’s alternative rock scene. He is best known for his punk rock band Cursive. They are one of the original bands on Omaha, Nebraska’s Saddle Creek Records, the label made famous by Conor Oberst’s band Bright Eyes.

Kasher’s first solo album, The Game of Monogamy, was released this fall, and in true Kasher form it is a rollicking and emotional concept album. Fans of his work with Cursive, or his more experimental band The Good Life, have come to expect cynical, clever and scathingly self-reflective lyrics, matched to infectious and beautifully arranged music. Kasher delivers on this album about marriage and the disappointments of adult life, echoing Cursive’s third album Happy Hollow. The themes of discontentment and failed dreams can be seen as an extension of the song from that album “Dorothy At Forty”.

Following Kasher’s eleven releases to date, one can see an amazing blossoming of themes from one release to the next. Kasher truly understands the art of narrative and capturing a mood, always keeping the listener emotionally attached, but also entertained. While wrestling with the disillusionment of love and life in your mid-thirties, he still works in enough tongue-in-cheek statements to keep his stories from becoming too disheartening. His singing style is another great appeal, as he raises his voice to a passionate howl that keeps your spirits high as you cannot help but sing along and relate to the truth in his lyrics; even if you are over ten years younger than him and nowhere near married life.

On Cursive’s hit-album The Ugly Organ, cello invigorated their punk-influenced songs. On this effort, Kasher does not disappoint with standard rock instruments, but instead includes saxophone, trombone, trumpet, violin, viola and more. I believe this richness and musical complexity in alternative rock today is what makes the most exciting bands as great as they are—such as Arcade Fire and Andrew Bird. The album achieves a gorgeous symmetry, with a lush overture to begin, and an extension of that song as the last track. This care and “bigger picture” approach to writing an album can also be seen in Arcade Fire’s latest album, Suburbs.

In the album’s standout track “Strays”, a slow and touching song, Kasher sings “Writers are selfish, writers are egoists; I’m afraid I’m as bad as it gets. I keep forgetting to censor the truth, that’s why I better write some kind of love song for you.” It is statements like these that have characterized Kasher’s writing since Cursive’s hit song “Art is Hard”. But his exposed and brutal look at the inherent selfishness and unreasonable expectations of humans is just what leaves you wanting more every time you hear his work. It is this vulnerable outlook, which is also exhibited in the work of Bright Eyes and indie-queen Jenny Lewis, that makes listeners feel that musicians express what you were feeling, and therefore connect you to a community that understands you.

I mean who can help but agree with lines like, “And God forbid Cupid ever finish what he started”? Complete with “Life” board-game style artwork on the album, Kasher has certainly put forth another fascinating look at the human psyche, all set to terrific sweeping rhythms.