Saddle Creek | The Good Life | Reviews


Album of the Year

Author: Raymond Appleberg
07/30/2004 | | | Album Review
rating: 4 out of 5

I know what you're thinking: Didn't Faith No More release an album self-righteously titled "Album of the Year" in 1997? Yes they did but I'm forced to give the originality award to Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers for their classic "Album of the Year" released back in 1981.

The Good Life has proven that the third time is always a charm with their August 2004 release entitled (can you guess?) "Album of the Year".

Firstly, I love Cursive. If you're stupid meaning you think I'm talking about handwriting Cursive is a four-piece band came that started at Omaha's much-esteemed indie label, Saddle Creek Records, almost 10 years ago. Their lead singer, Tim Kasher, started The Good Life as a side project, but it quickly turned into another full-fledged band.

I "discovered" them and designated them for Raydom in the backwards sort of way in which a teenager weaves through his dad's classic rock albums (Led Zeppelin IV back to LZ I) and claims them as his own discoveries.

Baptized by Cursive's "The Ugly Organ" and confirmed with "Domestica," my stereo speakers have now memorized "Art is Hard" (an unbelievably obvious, yet completely true and beautifully translucent track) to the point that I merely wave the CD case towards them and they shudder. If you want to makeyour speakers giggle like a post-adolescent MILF, I would suggest picking up a copy of "The Ugly Organ".

So, what would possess Kasher to give up the Robert Smith screaming and opt for an acoustic guitar in his "new" band, The Good Life?

Tim Kasher's unyielding emotion triumphs over his lack of range. Some critics unfairly overlook him (*cough* SPIN!) while others compare him to the next John Lennon. I read a great review long ago stating that because Kasher is such a self-referential songwriter, (writing about ex-loves, hometown, thinking and songs about writing songs) it's unfair to criticize him because he's already so hard on himself.

Regardless, I'll be damned if I don't hate acoustic guitars in a rockin' band. So I guess that's why you start a new band, much akin to Conor Oberst's multiple projects and sounds, like Desaparecidos, Bright Eyes, and so on.

In 2000, tired of storing his mellow, Un-Cursive musical thoughts inside of his writhing, talented head, Kasher formed The Good Life complete with an additional grueling tour schedule (hell, he was just divorced and had to do something).

Focusing on Kasher's self-described "softer rock" tendencies, fans braced themselves for a steaming pile. But The Good Life's 2000 release "Novena on a Nocturn" (despite being incredibly depressing and rampant with 80s synth drum beats) was, overall, a great album. "Black Out" the group's second concoction got even better. But now, with "Album of the Year", we've got catchy, moody pop/rock that can't decide weather it should be Top 40 or reserved for a smoky jazz club. Or maybe it's just the perfect album to mourn a lost loved one while wetting oneself, huddling in a ball while thunder roars outside.

The music itself is poppy un-pop that flips between shoegazer, singer-songwriter mourning and smiles. During the first song at 2:24 into the title track, right at the bridge there are BONGOS! What the hell? It's great.

Track 9 ("Inmates") wins the Raymond Appleberg Check-Minus Award for Song of the Year from Album of the Year. Over nine minutes long, it tricked me into thinking it's sappy (Who's this woman that starts singing? I prayed it wasn't Kasher turning wussy on me), and just as I was preparing to skip the track, I stopped and listened to the lyrics. That's important don't ever forget to listen to a Kasher song.

It's sad that we sometimes want music that doesn't make us listen, or think, or even feel. (That subject in itself could take a few days to write about, and that's not even mentioning Hanson.)

Producer Mike Mogis suggested Kasher let Jiha Lee, a former Good Life member, sing the lyrics to "Inmates". (She's the woman, FYI.) What results is an incredible statement on the power of the almighty lyric. This is why Top 40 Losers don't have to write their own songs and can still be successful because it's all about the songwriter.

In a recent interview, Kasher described "Inmates": "It's that situation where someone comes over at 7pm and you have this conversation you don't want to have but know you need to, and you see the sun go down and it just keeps going."

I must say, as a male, I actually felt the guilt as I heard lines that girls have said (or easily could have said) to me throughout my life: "So how much of this relationship was rehearsed? Did you act out as a child? Were you always crying, 'Wolf?' Attention star, you try too hard just to get someone to look. Now you're a wolf in second-hand clothing. I'm a sheep in a pleated skirt. It's an awkward form of payback but if it works for you it works. It's that I recognize your off-white lies, still I lied beside you and that's what really hurts."

In true Saddle Creek fashion, Kasher's lyrics dominate every entry. It's not as well put-together (i.e. produced) as Cursive, but Kasher's relaxed style and delicate vocal presentation make phrases such as "Under a Honeymoon" (repeated 12 times) seem as if they're moving; always transitioning towards a goal.

My other faves include "You're No Fool", an easy-going, jazzy romp with catchy piano undertones. This makes me wonder what instrument Kasher writes on he probably writes with his toes while driving to Cursive gigs.

"Album of the Year" as Album of the Year? Perhaps not, but it's a great showing from my new favorite orator and lyricist nonetheless. I can't wait for The Good Life to get back from Germany, Switzerland and the UK to start promoting this less-than rockin' album (but that's okay, the Jazz Messengers said so).

"Album of the Year" by The Good Life hits stores August 10th.

Album of the Year

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LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3


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