Reviews

Album of the Year

Author: Matt
09/08/2004 | Indieworkshop.com | www.indieworkshop.com | Album Review
Tim Kasher has finally done it and let the Saddle Creek teenage scenesters rejoice: he has finally made his own version of Bright Eyes' Lifted, or, The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. Following on the recent release of the Lover's Need Lawyers E.P., Album of the Year is another logical step into the constricted lyrical psyche of Mr. Kasher. Not content to just rock hard in Cursive, The Good Life explores chamber pop all while staying within the limits of the concept album that Tim Kasher loves to write. Gone are the electric blips and beats of 2002's Black Out; they have been replaced with accordions, trumpets, flugel horns and enough jam band percussion to make you wonder if the Good Life have gone phishing.

The album starts simply without any unusual instrumentation but rather with Kasher's acoustic guitar strumming a folk riff until his tenor voice joins in and croons: "The first time that I met her I was throwing up in the ladies room stall. She asked me if I needed anything; I said, 'I think I spilled my drink'. And that's how it started (or so I'd like to believe)". But halfway through the track, strangeness ensues when the Violent Femmes ransack the studio and holds the singer at gunpoint until he plays an acoustic breakdown reminiscent of the Femmes best songs. It's transitions like this that startle the listener, jolting him back in to listening submission after making his eyes heavy with minutiae. But be that as it may, djembes seem nothing but out of place on any Saddle Creek album and their use on the first track is strangely surreal.

The standout track on the album is "Inmates" and oddly enough, it pushes the nine and a half minute mark. Jiha Lee provides the lead vocals on this track. Her voice possesses a beautiful airy quality that is refreshing to hear as it provides a nice contrast to the tenor voice of Tim Kasher. When their two voices converge four minutes into the song, you can't help but feel something undeniably real. The track explores all the questions that you inevitably ask at any soul-searching moment romantic relationships go through. Lines like "What are we still doing here, so desperate for company? There's a Greyhound on Jackson Street, there's an airport in Council Bluffs… hell, there's a car in the driveway – fifty ways to get lost" are awkward yet undeniably attractive and accessible like the librarian girl sitting at the end of the bar by herself nursing her Cosmopolitan.

Album of the Year is a lesson in contradictions in that it is successful when the songs don't get lost in their own repetitive structures and yet some of the best songs are deceptively simple. The lyrics are a mixture of clever observations mixed with several trite clichés ("She pours the drinks, they pour out their hearts"). The main problem with the album is that the majority of its twelve tracks take too long to develop. The listener loses interest just as the track crescendos to its conclusion. Also, this album should only be listened to on headphones or in a quiet room when you are alone because any interruptions spoils the beautiful subtlety of the accompanying instruments and other seemingly minute elements. That being said, if you are a fan of Tim Kasher, then chances are you have already bought this album and loved it.


Album of the Year

Album of the Year

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