Tag Archives: Cursive

Tim Kasher: Adult Film

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Tim Kasher: Adult Film- Calling Adult Film “Tim Kasher’s midlife crisis album” would be like referring to Nevermind as “Nirvana’s angst album” or the latest Will Ferrell movie as “the one where he yells a lot;” midlife crisis is Kasher’s style. Whether he’s penning songs for his main creative outlet, Cursive, his first stab at a solo career, The Good Life, or his most recent solo project, more aptly titled Tim Kasher, the man seems to have a whirlwind of crises surrounding him at all times. That being said, it seems only natural that his tales of marital apocalypse and existential vagrancy are complemented by a thunderstorm of guitars and, in Cursive’s most armageddonous era, cello. One would most likely suspect sunnier lyrics once the musical storm has subsided, but Adult Film proves otherwise.

Adult Film may not necessarily be “sunny,” but Kasher’s extensive use of synths and other prominent electronic sounds severely lessen the tension that Cursive embodied throughout their career. If anything, Kasher’s music has made an abrupt shift to listless futility; from track one, the instrumentally-triumphant ‘American Lit,’ he excitedly declares that he’s “got a story to tell,” yet this story won’t become a “modern masterpiece” until it’s adapted to film, and our kids will be too busy doing acid to give a shit anyway. Kasher’s response? Hey, at least I’ve got a spot in the annals of our libraries. A surprisingly optimistic outlook for a guy who wrote a song called ‘We’re Going to Hell.’ I suppose for him the triumphance is warranted.

The album’s first single, ‘Truly Freaking Out,’ manages to lighten the mood with Flaming Lips-style synth-wubs while simultaneously reminding us that our lives are quickly flying by and soon we’ll be joining our grandparents and pets in the ground. Kasher even jokes that he’s scared to death of outliving everyone due to all of the eulogies and funeral costs, only to immediately state that “all jokes aside, [he] truly can’t bear the thought” of it. In other words he’s reached a whole new level of crisis mode in which he makes nervous jokes about his mortality while keeping his music subjectively collected. Upon listening to Adult Film immediately after hearing Cursive’s Domestica, I realized Kasher’s mentality could be summed up with a single Les Savy Fav lyric: “At least we used to care enough to shout.”

The album’s second single is quite the opposite of shouting; ‘Where’s Your Heart Lie’ sees Kasher at his most self-unconfident, realizing that he’s “ruining” the titular Your’s love. The song is a lovely piano ballad that chronicles Kasher’s intense self-loathing as Cursive-like guitars pound at the door throughout the piece, causing you to wonder whether they’ll burst in. They don’t; instead, the track closes with a blasé trumpet solo. Similarly, the calm post-bedroom war of ‘Lay Your Weapons Down’ sounds as if it could burst at any moment, as its consistently circled by World War II bomber sounds. Yet by the end the only shift we hear in the music is the innocent moanings of woodwinds most likely displaced from a grade school play.

Perhaps the most genuine song on Adult Film comes in the form of the sung-and-simultaneously-whispered ‘You Scare Me to Death’ which chronicles Kasher’s fear of love and attachment (“the more I try to love someone, the more the horror grows”). The song is stunningly sincere while equally terrifying in its account of Kasher’s Epilogue-like nightmares and discomforting in its similarity to ‘Hey There Delilah.’ Rather than drench this ballad in synths or heavy guitar, the combination of acoustic guitar, accordion, and singing saw connects ‘Scare Me to Death’ more closely with Neutral Milk Hotel or Beirut than any of Kasher’s previous work.

Compositionally equal in originality for Kasher yet entirely more depressing is ‘A Raincloud is a Raincloud’ which reminds us that despite having a silver lining, well, a raincloud is still a raincloud. The raincloud that Kasher is particularly interested in is regret, whether it’s his “horseshit” degree in English literature or his lack of wife and kids. Kasher teasingly sings in the chorus “I’m done pining for a silver lining,” which leads us to believe that he knows that at this point in his life it’s too late to get out of the music business and start a family, and he wants to rub it in his ever-smiting God’s face that he no longer cares. Perhaps it’s this epiphany that gives him a jolt of inspiration on ‘A Looping Distress Signal’ in which he encourages himself to “keep writing! Keep writing! (even if inside you’re dying).” The fact that his life has become “a looping distress signal” only fuels his literary fire, and he’s suddenly become grateful for his suffering.

As this is perhaps the most optimistic moment of his entire career, it only makes sense to end the album on a note of slight discomfort; on ‘A Lullaby, Sort Of’ he notes that in his experience heartbreaking loss and maddening joy go hand in hand. That is, either you become an English major and therefore find maddening joy and heartbreaking loss in your unstable life as a traveling musician, or you study something more practical that will provide you with a stable life (no pressure, college freshman). Through Tim Kasher’s music we get a glimpse into the life of someone who’s chosen the red pill over the blue and is therefore perpetually teetering on the edge emotion. But on Adult Film we finally see him confident in his decision with his life choice, no matter how seemingly trivial or masochistic his justifications are. Just be forewarned that this isn’t necessarily an album for fans of Cursive, Adult Film is an album for fans of Tim Kasher…7.3/10

A Raincloud is a Raincloud

An Afterparty with Cursive

Kicking off the North American leg of their tour, Cursive headlined the after-party for Chicago’s Wicker Park Festival on Friday July 27 at Subterranean. Everyone seemed to hold a smile and a cold beer, except the several younger under-21 audience members sprinkled throughout the venue, with bold black X’s marked across their hands and an eagerness in their faces as they inched their way toward the stage.

The opening acts represented the strongest forces of the Cursive power, intensity and emotion. Local band The Sky We Scrape was up first, giving off a heavy punk and hardcore sound with high-powered energy. Hospital Ships followed with softer, melodic songs as the singer crooned with high, pop-driven vocals. The rawness of the first band and the sensitivity of the second set the tone for the rest of the evening.

The place was packed. With the stage set, and the crowd waiting, it steadily got quieter as a buzz of anticipation filled the overheating room. Finally, Tim Kasher walked across the stage along with the rest of Cursive and said a little “Well, well, well…” into the mic before he gave a coy smile to the faces beaming at him as they cheered, and then he started the show. Opening with “Drunken Birds” from the newly released I Am Gemini, Kasher shook his head and pointed at the crowd as if to say “Listen up.” It was obvious that the crowd was made up of committed fans, as they pointed right back at their singer/storyteller, singing along to every word.

The band mixed the set list up with a couple songs from each of their last 5 albums. Songs like “The Lament of Pretty Baby” from Domestica and “Big Bang” from Happy Hollow seemed to get the most enthusiasm and sing-alongs, but new ones like “The Sun and Moon” got plenty of heads and feet moving and shaking. A mix of keys, horns, and intense instrumental sections gave the set some interesting dynamics, while also keeping it fun and danceable for the audience and the band. It was a place of good vibes, with big tattooed dudes and dainty teenage girls all sharing the same energy and raising their fists in the air.

Perhaps the camaraderie was too much even for Kasher, since he paused between songs at one point to say, “It’s hot up here. We gotta have some disorder or something,” and then the band ripped into “The Casualty” from Domestica, with plenty of pauses for the audience to happily yell the lyrics back at the band.

After playing for over an hour, the band slowly walked offstage before returning for an all too expected encore of three songs: “Sierra,” “The Great Decay,” and “From the Hips.” Everyone knew it was all coming to an end, so the singing seemed to get louder and the dancing more sloppy. Couples got closer, beer bottles clanked together in a moment of “Cheers!” and one lucky girl even got a few twirls and dips from her man as they danced. Throughout the show, Kasher and the rest of Cursive would look out proudly as the people sang and danced to the music being played, and the crowd looked back at the band in the same proud way. There was a sense of comfortable intimacy in the room, as if you had suddenly joined in on a friendship, a family. The music of Cursive is so heavily based on storytelling, and while the albums themselves effectively tell the tale, there’s nothing like getting out of the house, standing in front of the band, and becoming a part of the story.

Cursive will play again in Chicago at the Wicker Park Festival Saturday July 28 before they continue their tour into Canada and then move on to a U.S. tour with Minus the Bear.

Violent Films With Happy Endings

A few things have been happening lately and though most of them are violent, there is a happy ending…

Ski Lodge only had 4 songs on their debut EP, but they’ve already released a second video for it. It gets a little gorier than you’d think…

Cursive‘s latest record was received with mixed reviews although I quite liked it. It’s not quite as violent as the video above, but it’s certainly implied to be…

Evans The Death released their self-titled debut earlier this month and this is their violent, albeit goofy video for ‘Telling Lies’…

Finally, this isn’t exactly a new video, but Allo Darlin’ just released their ridiculously light and poppy 2nd LP, Europe and I’ve been looking for an excuse to feature it. After all this brutality, I can’t think of a better time to do it, can you?

 

Cursive: I Am Gemini

Cursive: I Am Gemini– Cursive are a post punk band from Omaha, Nebraska. For the last few years, Cursive have been experimenting with lots of different elements and instruments trying to find their niche. Surprisingly, nearly every combination they’ve tried has worked remarkably well. First they added cellist Gretta Cohn on 2001’s Burst And Bloom and continued to incorporate her almost flawlessly for nearly 4 years and 3 releases. Then after the departure of Cohn, they decided to incorporate horns on 2006’s Happy Hollow. Though I was caught completely off guard by the lack of cello and newly added horn section, I ultimately found it to work surprisingly well. Horns were far less used on 2009’s Mama, I’m Swollen, although it felt unusually forced at times.

This brings us to 2012 and their newest offering, I Am Gemini: A concept album based upon twin brothers separated at birth, one good, one evil. They eventually reunite and a struggle ensues for their souls complete with a cast of angels, demons and twin sisters conjoined at the head. As usual, Tim Kasher can spin a tale through song better than most and does so with seemingly great ease. Following in the tradition of Domestica and nearly every record that followed it, this record clearly defines a definite chain of events that play out with Kasher’s whispers and screams over the most stripped-down version of Cursive that anyone has heard in over 10 years.

It may be a surprise to many Johnny-come-lately’s out there, but Cursive didn’t always have a cellist or horn section backing them everywhere they went. In fact, their original line-up was only guitar and drum based for their first 3 records. All were excellent pieces of work and I’ve always wondered when they’d inevitably return to that formula… if only they stayed together long enough to achieve that. And look where we are now! If you were expecting a horn section, synthesizer or other ‘exotic’ element to be present this time, you’re in for quite a surprise. Thankfully, they’ve ditched everything but their original formula and are giving it a try without all the glitz. Sure, I Am Gemini does have slight alterations here and there, but nothing is spotlighted like before. It’s as stripped down as they’ve ever been.

I Am Gemini isn’t Cursive’s easiest record to listen-to, but believe me, that’s a good thing. Cursive is always at their finest when they’re making their audience a little uncomfortable and pushing their limits lyrically and musically. Fortunately, this is an unpredictable record with dramatic crescendos and in-your-face lyrics that push the envelope at nearly every turn. It’s comforting to know that they haven’t lost their edge and this record provides us all with plenty of proof of that…7.7/10

This House Alive

Cursive: I Am Gemini (Preview)

Cursive has been around for about 17 years now and every couple of years or so, they reliably put out a new record. Aside from their last record, Mama, I’m Swollen, each has been as remarkable as the last. Recently, they announced they’d be releasing I Am Gemini, their 8th full-length, on February 21st. According to them, it will be a concept album based upon a story of twin brothers separated at birth… blah blah blah. If that gets you excited, fine. But after hearing this single, though somewhat promising, I’m not entirely sure which way this album will go quite yet. Time will tell.

The Sun and Moon

When considering Cursive’s entire discography, there are more than a handful of excellent tracks that they’ve managed to put out throughout the years. So, in honor of their long and illustrious career, I’m naming my top 5 favorite songs from them. I could easily name a top 10, but lets just say that any of their albums, if you haven’t heard them, are pretty much all top notch and leave it at that.

#5

The Rhyme Scheme

#4

Some Red Handed Slight Of Hand

#3

A Disruption In The Normal Swing Of Things

#2

Returns And Exchanges

#1

Excerpts From Various Notes…

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