Tim Kasher - The Game of Monogamy (Cover Artwork)

Tim Kasher

The Game of Monogamy (2010)

Saddle Creek

After the demise of Commander Venus in the mid-'90s, Conor Oberst took the folk road with Bright Eyes, Todd Fink and Matt Bowen started a dance craze with the Faint, and Tim Kasher kept it real with Cursive. Cursive was a vehicle for Kasher to bear his heart on his sleeve and be as openly complicated as he wanted to be. After six incredibly influential and impressive albums with Cursive and two albums with his side project the Good Life, Kasher decided to go solo for The Game of Monogamy.

While it's not exactly clear why Kasher needed to release a solo record when he was the creative force and sole songwriter behind both Cursive and the Good Life, I'm still happy that he tried something that was (a little) different. The album features Kasher's signature vocals and self-flagellating, yet insightful lyrics. This time around, Kasher launches a straight-out attack on the institution of marriage and the foolish mortals that toy with the idea. Kasher, as usual, is singing from experience.

The arrangements of the songs are a bit of a nod to the newest indie rock royalty, Sufjan Stevens, but never become as self-absorbed as Stevens'. Also prominent on Monogamy are horns. After Gretta Cohn abandoned her post as cellist following 2003's phenomenal The Ugly Organ, Kasher filled the void with horns. And lots of them. Both 2006's Happy Hollow and 2009's Mama, I'm Swollen were filled with horns. The bouncy "I'm Afraid I'm Gonna Die Here" sounds like a cross among Cursive, Sufjan Stevens, Modest Mouse and Less Than Jake. It's lots of scathing fun, trust me.

While the slight detour from the standard Cursive sound produces some great tunes, the best moments of the whole album occur in the painfully moving "No Fireworks." The song acts as an anti-love song--not in the sense that it's a "love stinks" anthem, but that it chronicles the sad realization that the flame that was once there has burnt out. Towards the end of the song, Kasher sings (presumably from experience), "Went back to the bar where we first met / and recreated the event from the booth to the bed / and I couldn't feel anything at all."

The rest of the songs feature lush arrangements and the typical harsh lyrics. Kasher has definitely outlived the skeet-shooting of trends that plagued his Saddle Creek sidekicks in the Faint and Bright Eyes, as well as having established himself as being exceptionally articulate in the language of disappointment, defeat and self-analysis. While not a perfect record from start to finish, The Game of Monogamy is definitely worth a download, if not a purchase.