The Good Life, Album of the Year (2004)
How did I find this album? By literally Googling “best hipster albums,” funny enough. It was right up there with The Strokes and Neutral Milk Hotel. Well, I had to try it then, did I? This is today’s Pretentious Hipster Album of the Month Review.
Brief artist background
The Good Life is the more introspective project of Tim Kasher, lead vocalist and guitarist of post-rock act Cursive, a side project that became just as big as the main project. In fact, Tim Kasher’s band didn’t get a solid line-up until he was successful enough to go on tour. Thus, the band was chiefly composed of Kasher and the efforts of his friends, an eclectic array of musical minds from different bands of their own.
By Album of the Year, however, the Good Life had solidified, and so did this album. In fact, this is an incredibly uniform LP. The entire album is a classic story of love: the magical moment when two troubled souls meet, the intimate pain and closeness they share; and then, inevitably – the fall-out, the accusations, the lies. The fact that “Lovers Need Lawyers” (track 8).
According to AllMusic, each track of the 12-tracker is a month in the year of a relationship between an aspiring-musician protagonist and his bartender girlfriend. This is where I’d like to cock an eyebrow, however – despite the strong storytelling concept of this album, I often squirmed at just how similar the tracks were to each other. Yes, if taken independently, certain tracks were undeniably strong, but the presence of what I felt were “filler” tracks merely diluted the albums’ strength rather than add to its overall narrative value.
The style of Album of the Year is easy to appreciate, however. Familiar, plain melodies chock-ful of confessional lyrics and simple acoustic motives drive the album. There’s a spoken conversation at the end of “October Leaves” and a brief, smattering collage of one-liners from the album’s previous tracks in the ender, “Two Years This Month.”
The title track, “Album of the Year,” sums up album’s premise so well sometimes I wonder if an entire album of 12 tracks was even necessary. “Night and Day” is also a powerful track, focussed on the dark but intimate dynamic the two characters share that keeps their relationship together. These lyrics –
I know a girl with cuts on her legs
I think that she hates the way she was made
But we never spoke of why they were there
I just squeezed them and kissed them
Until we both felt a bit better
– were suitably meaningful, skirting emotional-overload by their affirmative sense of acceptance.
Another strong track was the 9:39 opus “Inmates.” Sung primarily by a female vocalist (Jiha Lee), it rises from slowly taunting the protagonist with acoustic strings to angrily jabbing him – in pitch intensity – with “50 ways to get lost.”
Story factor 4/5
The entire album is built on a narrative. I took off a star, however, because I felt some tracks were simply repetitive statements of previous tracks and didn’t add the value a 3-4 minute track should warrant.
The style is a quite static from head to tail of the album: rhythmic and driving acoustic rhythm guitar, lilting melodies that are similar across most tracks, simple driving chords, and broken chords played by a lazy, drippy lead guitar.
I have to admit, some of the lyrics do catch an ear. Kasher is a poet, a cynical one, and his project is sure to be relatable for many in plot and theme.
Post-break-up romantics who need a non-alcoholic audio fix. Anyone who likes sappy poetry and staring out the window on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Worth the hype?
There are strong tracks and weaker tracks. Personally, I fell in love with the title track almost immediately – the rest of the album? Not too sure.
Listen to “Album of the Year” for sure, but only listen to Album of the Year if you got time to spare.
Final score 3/5
Spotify biography (Peter J. D’Angelo, Rovi)
“Album of the year” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia. Fair use/fair dealing invoked for criticism and review.