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