Reviews

Help Wanted Nights

Author: Jon Pareles
Heartbreak can make a fellow sad or surly. It does both in Tim Kasher's songs for the Good Life, the band that performed at the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday night with fellow sensitive souls bellowing along.

Mr. Kasher, who emerged from Omaha alongside Bright Eyes, also leads the band Cursive, and he started the Good Life as a solo project before it turned into a separate band. Cursive is louder, charged up with postpunk electric guitar, and its songs dip into politics as well as domestic dramas. The Good Life is more rooted in 1960s pop, psychedelia and folk-rock, with Mr. Kasher usually playing acoustic guitar, and it's more introspective.

The songs grow quiet, though not exactly comforting. To the pop lilt of "Heartbroke," Mr. Kasher watches his ex already dating someone new while he repeats, with increasing sarcasm, "I'm sure your heart is breaking too."

Yet in both bands, Mr. Kasher is the same character: flawed, observant, wounded, needy, occasionally affectionate, often accusatory. The Good Life specializes in songs about breakups, which Mr. Kasher revisits before, during and after. Teetering between empathy and resentment, Mr. Kasher understands all too well how people cling to bad situations. "You keep lying to yourself, but the truth is you're afraid of letting go," he sang, "so let go!"

He has no problem letting go. Sooner or later, while the romance unravels in the course of a song, Mr. Kasher's voice goes from a modestly aching baritone to a desperate, tearful yelp he probably learned from Robert Smith of the Cure.

On the Good Life's new album, "Help Wanted Nights" (Saddle Creek), he often holds back the yelp to keep the songs smoldering. Onstage he quickly worked himself up to sounding more openly agonized, to the delight of fans who knew every word and only whooped louder as Mr. Kasher detailed his torments.

Luke Temple, a Brooklyn songwriter who shared the bill, offered enigmas rather than confessions on songs from his new album, "Snowbeast" (Mill Pond). His music melds skiffle and Minimalism, Appalachia and cabaret; one song mentioned "a mescaline freakout in an Off Broadway show."

Mr. Temple has a high, androgynous voice, and he spent about half his set picking a banjo in chords that weren't exactly bluegrass. There were easygoing shuffles and steady-state patterns, otherworldly slow-motion passages and spiraling buildups, countryish verse-chorus-verse and songs, like "Saturday Night People," that just kept metamorphosing as they went along, with lyrics like "Halos for maniacs bent out of shape/Still they will circle the crystalline gates."

Mr. Temple isn't part of any particular school not even that all-purpose new songwriters' catchall, freak-folk and his private world is fascinating.
Help Wanted Nights

Help Wanted Nights

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Help Wanted Nights

Help Wanted Nights

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