The Good Life - Album Of The Year
- Artist: The Good Life
- Album: Album Of The Year
- Label: Saddle Creek
- Year of Release: 2004
- ME Rating: Indie Classic
- Reviewed by: deatheyesforkiley on 2008-04-06
Tim Kasher. What else do I even need to say. Cursive frontman and Omaha native with his somewhat more calm band The Good Life. Entitled Album Of The Year it is a themed album that might well have been the album of the year. What else could you possibly expect from yet another Saddle Creek frontman and his side project. It seems to be a trend; Connor Oberst made a perfect album with Desaparecidos and Tim Kasher did with The Good Life.
Album Of The Year is a perfect effort. The flaws are few and far between. Leading off is the song "Album Of The Year." The song wastes no and dives directly into the witty, subversive, and yet heartwarming lyrics. It is accessible and perfectly delivered. Throughout the album the sound of Tim Kasher's voice resonates in your mind and wraps you up into a feeling of complete freedom. What else could you expect when a man refers to John Fonte and Charles Bowkowski in the first song of his album. The following song is much more melancholy. "I know a girl with cuts on her legs" as the first line of the song it exemplifies the emotional subject matter that you will come to expect from The Good Life. The album continues to tip-toe the line of indie perfection with jems such as; "Under a Honeymoon", "You're No Fool", "Notes In His Pockets", and "You're Not You." While the seventh song, "October Leaves" is beautiful and amazing in its own respect what truely makes it special is the song it preceds...."Lovers Need Lawyers." This track is jaw dropping in so many different respects that you will truely need to listen to it several times to absorb what you are hearing. Telling a tale of false accusations and personal defense it tells a story almost all can relate to. You would think they would be hardpressed to follow a classic like that with something that would not seem disappointing. But, in true genius fashion that was not a problem for The Good Life. "Inmates" is the ninth song and is placed so perfectly one would be tempted to call it art. It is a lyrical masterpiece and is delivered beautifully with help from songstresses Jiha Lee and Jenny Lewis.
In conclusion The Good Life's Album Of The Year is a classic. This album has no flaws in my eyes. It has something for everyone and will leave noone wanting more. This album is a must have for any fan of not only The Good Life but any fan of the genre in general. But beware Album Of The Year might end up being in your stereo for about a year.
User Reviews and CommentsLog In or Register to Rate Albums
Tell us why this album is great or sucks ass, or correct the reviewer. If you write enough quality reviews you may find yourself on the editorial staff.
Reviews have to be over 100 words, shorter ones are classed as comments.
on 2008-06-09 kev_stev Said:
i wrote a paper on album of the year in high school, so i pasted the gist of it here.
on 2008-06-09 DeathEyesForKiley Said:
kev stev you just went all out and wrote a book on this one. Nice though I dig it.
on 2008-04-28 digitalbath Said:
I recently downloaded a bunch of Good Life albums and I'm disappointed to say that I wasn't very impressed. Seemed kind of like what would happen if Cursive and Bright Eyes had a love-child, which is probably orgasmic for some, just not me.
Guess I'll just stick to Curisve
on 2007-06-20 kev_stev Said:
Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, is the side project of Tim Kasher—lead singer of the alternative rock band Cursive—named The Good Life, a band that entails a softer and much more melancholic sound than any of Kasher’s previous projects. Their third album, rightfully entitled Album of the Year, is an amalgam of varied yet sparsely used instruments and lead singer Tim Kasher’s lyrical ingenuity, together eliciting feelings of self-loathing, jealousy and regret. Each song on Album of the Year represents one month of a year in Kasher’s life, telling twelve stories of triumphs and failures that successfully capture the ambiance of the seasons, with the twelfth and final song culminating his one year journey. Whether it is the frenetic summer pace of August’s “Notes in His Pocket” or the wistful sentiments of February’s “A New Friend,” Kasher meticulously emphasizes the settings of his songs, enhancing the conceptual aspect of the album—bringing all of the elements of The Good Life to fruition.
Unlike contemporary rock bands, The Good Life utilize various instruments to capture emotions within their music; from the poignancy and solitude of vocals over an unaccompanied acoustic guitar to the cathartic boisterousness of guitars, piano, drums, and trumpets, the timbre and dynamics fluctuate rapidly, avoiding monotony. In fifty minutes of euphony, Kasher captures the fluctuations of emotions and changes in settings while utilizing literary techniques to refine hackneyed themes in contemporary music such as the emotional anguish from unrequited love. His utilization of metaphor, allegory and sarcasm all add to the depth of his lyrics, revealing a much more mature outlook of love and loss, of their sorrows.
The eponymous first track “Album of the Year” begins with Kasher’s quaintness as he sings, “The first time that I met her I was throwing up in the ladies room stall.” Though the first two minutes of the song are predominantly Kasher singing with his acoustic guitar, the sound avoids desolateness; Kasher’s lush vocals are as endearing as his lyrics are descriptive, “She took me to her mother’s house / Outside of town where the stars hang down / She said she’d never seen someone so lost / I said I’d never felt so found.” Also, the progression of the song coincides with the implementation of musical embellishments; as Kasher divulges more details of his short affair with the woman the sounds of bongos and mandolins resonate, both of which build up to its climatic ending. Though the relationship Kasher describes falters—an apparent recurrent outcome in Kasher’s life—the song ends with The Good Life’s first exemplification of lyrical and musical catharsis as Kasher sings, “We started laughing until it didn’t hurt,” referring to he and his love interest’s final moments before leaving each other. A variety of instruments are then harmoniously played, resounding a powerful consonance that leads to the winding electric guitar, overpowering Kasher’s vocals and ending in a solo—a great contrast to its opening dynamics. “Album of the Year” then bleeds into the next song, “Night and Day,” revealing the album’s cohesiveness and adherence to its conceptual year of memories: it doesn’t skip a day from Kasher’s life.
Immediately, the melody of “Night and Day” is recognizably different than the album’s first song as Kasher plays the accordion somberly, singing with a more lucid voice in comparison to “Album of the Year.” The song is purposely melancholic; it has its build ups in dynamics but does not stray from the feelings of depression and lonesomeness that occurs with drinking unaccompanied at a bar. Kasher sings in his patented, half-inebriated voice as his lyrics illustrate an image of a man mourning over his drink, “Night and day she tends to her bar / She pours me a drink for my parched heart / All my sorrow’s in alcohol.” However, as Kasher’s singing fades with the accordion The Good Life elicit a more cheerful, though still slow-paced, harmony with a slide guitar. In their third song, “Under a Honeymoon,” a myriad of instruments triumphantly resound including: congas, an organ, Wurlitzer, bass, accordion, organ, djembe, finger cymbal, trumpet and fugelhorn. His lyrics offer insight into his difficulty of attaining romance in his hasty relationships; he is conscious that his flings with girls are ephemeral and he begs to be “reconciled,” though he concurrently comes to the realization that his actions “Feel right / Or at least it’s feeling good.” His final metaphorical comparison of lovers to actors culminates into a cinematic burst of consonance, as he cathartically sings over the powerful dynamics that he “always falls in love too soon, caught beneath the glow of a honeymoon.”
Following the trumpets that conclude “Under a Honeymoon,” the listener is brought into a smoky cabaret, beginning with a jazzy trumpet solo, again retreating to a slow tempo. In this song, titled “You’re No Fool,” Kasher’s lyrics consist of sarcastic and sexual implications to a woman as trumpets resound in the background, singing sardonically, “He's not so bad, and he's all that she has / So why fight?” As the timbre and tempo of the song intensifies, Kasher’s lyrics become more confrontational, for instance, during its climatic ending, he vehemently exclaims, “You know you’re no fool.” In this passionate proclamation, the piano and guitars progressively become louder while the drums beat harder, as Kasher’s voice escalates with the music, concluding triumphantly with the resonations of trumpets and drums.
Following “You’re No Fool” an evident shift in the album becomes apparent, as “Notes in His Pocket” begins with a frenetic pace, hard hitting guitars and the incessant striking of piano keys. The music illustrates the fast-paced, impulsive actions of an unfaithful man where the tempo never decreases and the dynamics continually oscillate over variants of Kasher’s singing, moaning and screaming. The song comes to a jolting halt as an acoustic guitar is strummed at the beginning of “You’re Not You,” which subtly shifts the dynamics—bringing about feelings of isolation after committing what is implied as adultery. “You’re Not You” is an invariably slow song where Kasher pleads to a girl to change her ways, explaining the ways she has lost touch with her inner self. The song itself is poignant, as Kasher hopelessly repeats “You’re not you—you’re not you anymore” over his acoustic guitar, congas and Amy Huffman’s soothing back-up vocals.
As “You’re Not You” concludes, Kasher does not escape from his forlorn demeanor, as he sings “The season’s changing, it’s for the worse” in “October Leaves,” arguably the saddest song on Album of the Year. Kasher writes of the world around him changing, almost whispering “The trees are barren, the leaves have turned / The days when we made it the world was green / Now autumn has fallen, everything’s changed.” Following “October Leaves” is a short spoken interlude between a man and woman, with the woman questioning his honesty in their relationship. A snare drum then beats as Kasher sings to his lover, “I swear to speak the whole truth, nothing but the truth / Oh so help me God I wasn’t cheating on you.” Ironically entitled “Lovers Need Lawyers” the song’s melody is jovial though the lyrics are confrontational, creating a catchy chorus of maliciousness—revealing Kasher’s gradual adaptation to failure in, and callousness towards, relationships. After the repetition of the cynical phrase “It’s to you I’m condemned,” the song comes to an end, though the dual vocals that end the song prove to be a conduit to the next intense altercation.
“Inmates,” as Kasher would describe him and his lover’s connection, begins like no other song on the album: rather than hearing the echo of Kasher’s half-drunken vocals, the listener is soothed by female vocalist Jiha Lee’s harmonious voice as she portrays a woman with an unfaithful boyfriend. For four minutes she sings to her boyfriend, which is from a different perspective than the other songs on Album of the Year, questioning, “I know you’re so alone / But how much affection does one guy really need?” As the song progresses Kasher’s voice emerges, singing with Lee and empathizing with her struggle. Eventually, the two conclude that they are not in love, together because they are merely “so desperate for company,” again showing Kasher’s growing callousness towards love and relationships as the album advances. After eight minutes of poignancy both Kasher and Lee come to the realization of their disposition, and in a cathartic chant over a country-rock chorus they both cry out “I can’t be your prisoner / I won’t.”
Following “Inmates” are the songs “Needy” and “A New Friend,” which reveal Kasher’s desperateness and his ultimate lonesomeness in relationships. The two songs retreat back to Kasher’s despondency, where the dynamics build up as he sings in desperation, his pessimism overburdening him. The final song, “Two Years this Month” begins with a scattered collection of the highs and lows of the album, arranged by Michael Mogis—who produced many of the songs on Album of the Year—and is the only song that excludes the other three core members of The Good Life: Ryan Fox, Stefanie Drootin and Roger Lewis. After the conclusion of the musical montage from the first eleven songs, the sound of a cassette spinning out of control echoes and then there is complete silence. Tim then inhales and sings a cappella, depressively ending the album saying, “The only thing everlasting is this vow of silence / Well, I guess that’s the vow that we took, but not at first / At first I was screaming those songs you heard two years ago / On that night we last spoke.” This intimate conclusion ends an album full of volatile changes in themes, emotions and settings, leaving the listener almost in shock—vicariously feeling Kasher’s utmost sadness.
To close, Album of the Year can best be summarized by what Saddle-Creek Records proclaimed: “[…] could Album of the Year just as well be called Break-up Album of the Year? Maybe. But that would limit it to being compared only to other break-up albums, and, well, it can hold its own.”