The Good Life - Album Of The Year (Cover Artwork)

The Good Life

Album Of The Year (2004)

Saddle Creek

My girlfriend and I have our two year anniversary coming up at the end of this month. We normally try not to go overboard with gifts, but when we were in a record store together recently, we decided to get each other CD's. After much searching, she bought me Van Halen's first release, and I picked up the new Good Life album for her. We listened to Van Halen two or three times that weekend, but only got through two songs on what was apparently the "Album of the Year." After an amazing EP release (Lovers Need Lawyers), full of great pop hooks and upbeat, happy songs, earlier this year, the low key Album of the Year was not what we expected. However, I realized Tim Kasher has never released the same album twice, and I decided to go back and give this another listen. I am glad I did.

Album of the Year is a giant leap forward for Kasher as a songwriter. A concept album, each song deals with one month of a relationship, from puppy love to break up and the subsequent picking up the pieces. The lyrics are, in every way, absolutely the best Kasher has ever written. They are heart-felt, clever, euphonious, and the running theme of the album allows him to tell a richer story than he ever has before. Although Kasher has said all of his albums are concept albums, they have never been this well-defined, structured, and focused. Kasher is also at his most introspective, examining his painful past, views towards women, and personal shortcomings for his audience. There is a somewhat eerie voyeuristic element to the album, listening to him describe his infidelity, dishonesty, and abandonment; however, similar elements have been present in his work before, and instead of being off-putting, hearing his flaws and pain make every word he sings seem more true and real.

The music is a perfect match for the lyrics, with a melancholy, moody quality that persists no matter what style of music they tackle. Ranging from 50's rock to accordion-driven folk songs to Beach Boys-esque pop melodies, they do it all and they do it all well. Always subtle and well-arranged, most of the songs have an orchestral quality that reminds me of label mate Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes. Producer Mike Mogis, as always, adds so much to the record, through both his beautiful production and his great mind for instrumentation.

This is just one of those records where everything clicks. I am hesitant to give it a perfect score or declare it "Album of the Year" (ironically) because it is so new, but this CD has the potential to be a true classic. This is such a giant leap forward from Black Out that there is really no comparison. Mature, subtle, intelligent, this is music that requires a lot from the listener, but pays them back tenfold.