Album of the Year
Apparently Kasher has seen more than a few photos of himself wailing away with his band Cursive, one of the finest rough-and-tumble Nebraska acts, known for their merger of D.C. emo's angry thrash and the sensitive tremors of Omaha confreres like Conor Oberst. But his onset of the giggles signaled just how aware Kasher was that he wouldn't be doing much screaming tonight. Album of the Year, the most recent record by Kasher side-project-turned-serious-endeavor The Good Life, is a largely heartbreaking song-cycle where humor colors the mopeyness like cream clouding coffee, and 90 minutes worth of Kasher originals filled the Troubadour with self-pity – a crushing "O'Rourke's, 1:20am" – as well as self-mockery – the musician-as-jester comic sketch "Entertainer" – but the night saw precious little in the way of open-mouthed screaming. In fact, the biggest surprise of the show was just how grinningly jovial a mood Kasher was in.
Not that Kasher is ever anything but a charmer in person, but these new songs in particular seem resistant to being played between bouts of good-natured joking-around. And yet the devil-in-the-details relationship drama of the new disc's title track was separated from the aching pleas of "Don't Make Love So Hard" – off the smashing 2002 album Black Out – by Kasher offering a chuckling request for our patience while he stepped offstage to make a phone call, while the Harry Nilsson keyboards of the relatively-jaunty "Lovers Need Lawyers" seemed to spill into an onstage party before the band crashed into an almost mournful "A Golden Exit." Kasher began his encore with a windy but wonderful anecdote about a walk he took through West Hollywood that afternoon, before playing perhaps the most depressing song in his catalog, "The Competition," in a plaintive solo piano rendition. And though he opted for straight-up honesty when the show seemed to have gone off the rails – "I'd just as well get the fuck out of here," Kasher chirped brightly, "but what do you guys want to do?" – he yielded to audience requests to continue and led his band through several more numbers, including a sloppy but superb "Inmates" and an even sloppier and decidedly less superb "Friction," before calling it a day. He seemed almost medicated in his cheeriness, but the band's performances were uniformly stirring, and overall you couldn't have asked for a more potent mix of smiles and sadness.
Kasher's label-mate Oberst may get all the press lately, but he's a lesser songwriter and a vastly inferior performer. Give Bright Eyes devotees a few years to grow older and bitterer, and they'll turn into huge Good Life fans, guaranteed. B+
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3